US senators in search of bipartisan agreement on US immigration policy are expressing optimism that a plan will be ready for senate consideration soon, despite expected Republican opposition in the House.
According to the Irish Times, a deal reached over the weekend by business and union leaders on allocating visas to low-skilled foreign workers will improve the chances for an agreed bill.
Senator Charles Schumer, one of the eight-person negotiating team, said he expected the bill to reach the judiciary committee in April and the full senate in May.
'Every major policy issue has been resolved,' Schumer told NBC's Meet the Press program. 'I am very, very optimistic that we will have an agreement among the eight of us next week.'
But Schumer, along with Republicans Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, admitted there was no final agreement yet because details of legislation haven't been finalized.
'We're much closer with labour and business agreeing on this guest-worker plan,' Flake told NBC. 'That doesn't mean we've crossed every I or dotted every T or vice-versa.'
The agreement between labour and business groups is reportedly designed to resolve a dispute over a proposed guest-worker program that had been impeding senate efforts to implement the broadest changes in immigration law in almost 30 years.
But now the heads of the US Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO, the biggest labour federation, finally reached an accord on March 29.
Democrats, who control the Senate, will have some difficulty garnering the 60 votes needed for the bill's passage and the Republican-controlled House poses an even greater challenge.
Florida senator Marco Rubio, a Republican member of the Senate group, said in a statement at the weekend that while he was encouraged by the labour-business agreement, it would be premature to assume that the Senate group had reached a final decision.
Any legislation the senate group endorses will only be a starting point, Rubio said. 'In order to succeed, this process cannot be rushed or done in secret.'
The new bill would establish a 13-year path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US, which President Obama has made a priority for his second term.
It's understood that House Republicans may prefer a path toward legal residency for the undocumented, rather than a path to citizenship.
In November Obama won 71 percent of all Hispanic votes cast. Republican leaders have acknowledged their party needs to do more to court all minority vote shares, including the fast growing Hispanic one.