Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) remains confident that immigration reform will be passed this year, but if not by the end of March, 2011.
He was speaking at a fundraising event hosted by the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform in midtown Manhattan
Addressing a crowd of mainly Irish American businessmen he said, “It’s a tough road, very tough” but he feels great confidence in the bill that he has co-authored with, South Carolina Republican, Lindsey Graham.
“The bill that I have drafted with Lindsay Graham is based on the fact that we can rationalize immigration,” he added.
Senator Schumer reiterated that their bill was in no way an amnesty for those who are undocumented, but a way of legalizing those who were willing to face the process of becoming citizens. More importantly their bill will deal with the “future flow of possible undocumented”.
“We have the business and labor groups on board, we even have every kind of religious group on board for immigration reform. I even have people like Lou Dobbs [ex CNN anchor] saying ‘Schumer is talking sense’,” he said.
He explained that the bill would mean that the undocumented would have to own up and account for the fact they have done something wrong.
It could be as little as paying a small fine or completing community service, or it might even be a fine that could be paid off over a number of years.
After they have paid off this nominal fee all they would have to do is have their visa processed.
Schumer also noted that immigration reform could have been on the Senate floor had it not been for the delay with the health bill reform.
“While Lindsey Graham is a great partner and he loves our bill” Schumer said, he pointed out that his mentor was Senator John McCain.
It is suspected that immigration will not reach the Senate floor until August at the earliest when John McCain's primary battle in Arizona, where immigration is a key issue, is decided.
Senator Schumer finished his address by explaining why he was so committed to immigration reform and especially Irish immigration reform.
“My mentor was Ted Kennedy. He was a mentor, like a father figure to me,” he said.
Schumer told the story of how, during Senator Kennedy’s illness in November, 2009, he had been invited down to the family’s Hyannis Port compound for some lunch and perhaps sailing.
Being too windy to sail, Ted Kennedy invited Schumer into his brother, John F Kennedy’s small house on the family compound. Senator Kennedy spent four hours showing Schumer family memorabilia dating form their ancestral home in County Wexford to present day.
Senator Schumer saw this moment as a passing of the torch.
“He was a great man. He asked me to continue his work, to take on the job that he had started. He tilled the fields and we’ll finish the job. This is for Ted Kennedy, for his legacy and finishing the job he started." he said.