The bipartisan group of eight senators who unveiled their new immigration bill early Wednesday has launched a major campaign, both publicly and in private, aimed at winning over conservatives in the Republican Party.
“Defining the bill quickly is good,” GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told Politico
. “We’re going to be open-minded about making it better. But this is an all-hands-on-deck approach.”
Related: Conservative Radio Whips Up Immigration Opposition
Graham and others have been taking to the airwaves and meeting with colleagues behind closed doors in an effort to sell the legislation.
The bill calls for billions of dollars to be spent on tightened border security with the goal of apprehending 90 percent of those attempting to cross into the U.S. in so-called high risk areas, according to Politico. And the 11 million illegal immigrants who are already in the country would have to pay $2,000 in fines, pass a background check, get a job, and then wait 10 years before applying for a green card. Three years later, they could apply for U.S. citizenship. The whole process would be linked to the government meeting a series of border security requirements.
Republican senators are trying to limit the opposition from conservatives over what many call “amnesty” for illegal immigrants and broaden the party’s appeal to Hispanic and moderate voters.
Although a solid portion of conservative voters are against the bill, the GOP senators who introduced it “know that the way the Republican Party can get well nationally is by getting something done,” Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, a member of the so-called "Gang of Eight" that wrote the bill, told Politico.
He continued, “If the House members, which are more conservative, see only five or six [Senate] Republicans voting for this, it’s a whale of a difference than if we see 20.”
But that could be easier said than done. Republicans, including Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, have already expressed concerns.
“It’s worse than we thought. It’s amnesty on a massive scale, greater than we anticipated,” Smith told Politico, adding, “We took their word that the border was going to be secured before the other reforms were implemented and that’s not the case.”
Still, several Senate Republicans are taking a wait and see approach before stating their position on the bill.
“I’m very open-minded,” Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah told Politico, adding, “People want to do what’s right here, but there are a lot of concerns on what is the best way to handle this problem and not create more.”
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