US Sen. John McCain (2nd left) speaks as (left to right) Senate Sen. Richard Durbin, Sen. Charles Schumer, Sen. Robert Menendez, and Sen. Marco Rubio listen at a news conference on immigration reform on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, January 28, 2013.
US senators from both dominant political parties have announced agreement over a plan for the country’s immigration reform just before President Barack Obama is set to reveal his own, more liberal scheme, on the issue.
Following weeks of negotiations, a group of Republican and Democratic senators outlined a far-reaching blueprint in a joint news conference on Monday to overhaul US immigration laws, insisting that it is time to correct “our broken immigration system.”
The move came just a day before Obama is set to declare on Tuesday his own proposals on fixing the nation’s controversial immigration policy and facilitating the legalization of the nation’s more than 11 million undocumented immigrants living and working “illegally” throughout the country, often subjected to harassment and abuse by US police and immigration officers as well as employers and anti-immigrant groups and individuals.
The measures reportedly include increased border security through the use of drones and other surveillance systems, tighter immigration requirements, stricter employment checks and tougher measures, including deportation, against immigrants with even minor criminal.
The efforts come following an unprecedented voter turnout of immigrant US citizens during the country’s last presidential and congressional elections in November 2012, when Obama won the backing of overwhelming majority of migrant voters on his repeated pledge to overhaul and fix the nation’s immigration laws and streamline the process of legalization for the millions of existing undocumented immigrants.
Furthermore, the development comes after other attempts to pass immigration reform packages through the US Congress failed in 2007, during the administration of George W. Bush, and in 2010, during Obama’s first presidential term mainly due to fierce opposition by Republican lawmakers who have traditionally leaned against immigration.
Despite the claimed bipartisan support for the new bid to reform US immigration laws, the proposal is still expected to face sharp opposition in the US Congress.
A number of key Republicans who have long opposed such comprehensive reform bid in the past have reiterated that their worries on the issue have not faded, according to local press reports.
Texas Congressman Lamar Smith, who just concluded a term as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which oversees immigration issues, criticized the recent agreement on immigration reform, saying in a statement that “by granting amnesty, the Senate proposal actually compounds the problem by encouraging more illegal immigration.”
Furthermore, Republican Senators Jeff Sessions of Alabama and David Vitter of Louisiana, who had helped lead efforts to foil comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2007, again expressed “deep reservations” about the recent plan during a Senate session.
Meanwhile, Obama reportedly intends to provide some details of the White House immigration reform plans during a Tuesday appearance in Las Vegas. His address in expected to set off a public drive by the administration in support of the most comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s immigration law in the past 30 years.
US-based Human Rights Watch, however, has expressed concerns the reform plan will bring new pressures on illegal immigrants and make their waiting time even longer.
"The wait under the existing system already can be almost 20 years, because of the limited number of family-based immigration visas available. The wait could become even longer if legalization is to be contingent on the border being deemed secure," the group said in a statement.
A coalition of immigration advocates, meanwhile, announced plans on Monday for a huge rally in support of comprehensive immigration reforms on April 10 in Washington.