Transcript: Sen. Chuck Schumer’s remarks on the bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform proposal

Transcribed and edited by Jenny Jiang

Partial transcript of Sen. Chuck Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) statement on the Gang of Eight’s bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform proposal at a press conference on Jan. 28, 2013: 

We’re here to announce today that the 5 of us here today and 8 of us in total, including Senators McCain, Durbin, Graham, Menendez, Rubio, Flake, and Bennet, have come together on a set of bipartisan principles for comprehensive immigration reform legislation that we hope can pass the Senate in overwhelming and bipartisan fashion.

We still have a long way to go but this bipartisan blueprint is a major breakthrough. It’s our hope that these principles can be turned into legislation by March and have a mark-up by Chairman Leahy’s committee with the goal of passage out of the Senate by late spring or summer.

Senator Durbin and I spoke to the President yesterday to update him on this group’s progress, and he couldn’t be more pleased. He strongly supports this effort.

The key to our compromise is to recognize that Americans overwhelmingly oppose illegal immigration and support legal immigration.

To this end, our framework contains 4 basic pillars. First, we create a tough but fair path to citizenship for illegal immigrants currently living in the United States that is contingent upon securing our borders.

Second, we reform our legal immigration system to better recognize the importance of the characteristics that will better help build the American economy and strengthen American families.

Third, we create an effective employment verification system that will prevent identity theft and end the hiring of future unauthorized workers.

And lastly, we establish an improved process for admitting future workers to serve our nation’s workforce needs while simultaneously protecting all workers.

Other bipartisan group of Senators have stood in the same spot before trumpeting similar proposals. But we believe this will be the year Congress finally gets it done.

The politics on this issue have been turned upside down. For the first time ever, there’s more political risk in opposing immigration reform than in supporting it.

We believe we have a window of opportunity to act, but we will only succeed if the effort is bipartisan.

By their presence today, my Republican colleagues are making a significant statement about the need to fix our broken immigration system.

We Democrats are equally serious. We do not want immigration as a wedge issue. Much rather, we want a bipartisan bill that solves the problem and becomes law.

We recognize that in order to pass bipartisan legislation none of us can get everything we want. That’s why our framework says we can address the status of people living here illegally while at the same time securing our borders and creating an immigration enforcement system that ensures we will not again confront another 11 million people coming here illegally.

On day one of our bill the people here without status who are not criminals or security risks will be able to live and work here legally. That will make it easier for them to learn English and integrate into their communities without fear of deportation.

But to prove to the American people that we’re serious about permanently ending illegal immigration to the U.S., we say we will never put these individuals on a path to citizenship until we have fully secured our borders and combatted the pattern of people overstaying their legal immigration visas.

We’re asking our colleagues in the Senate and the House to join us in this difficult work. It’s time to work together to pass legislation that improves our security, grows our economy, and ensures that we will continue to be a nation that lives up to the values of our founders…

And I want to say that every member of our group, including Sen. Graham who couldn’t be here today – Sen. McCain has a statement from him, have really been terrific in terms of understanding that we have to come to an agreement. We have to meet in the middle. That the mission of getting a bill done to strengthen America is more important than any of us clinging to a specific belief.

And so I’m optimistic. I’m truly optimistic – more than I was when we had our first meeting in December – that we can get this done.

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