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Soon: Immigration Deal Revealed; Senators Pitch Immigration Compromise

Aired January 28, 2013 - 14:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That is why Lindsey Graham, one of the Republican senators who we will see momentarily placed a call to Democrat Chuck Schumer and said let's get the ball rolling on this again.

And I'm told that they had about five meetings, this group of bipartisan senators, six total, and they were -- now eight, too that came in and out. And they wanted to come up with this.

And, yes, of course, we have seen this before, but I'm talking to sources on both sides, they say there is still a lot left undone, left on the table, but very, very sticky issues like with border security, like with the path to citizenship, but there definitely is a feeling they're closer now than they have been in years.

Look at the scene here. There are lots of press conferences here in Capitol Hill, but look behind me, how many cameras are here. This is definitely standing room only. This is -- this is sort of the place to be on an issue like this.

And the senators who are putting this together, Brooke, they did this on purpose. When I say this, meaning they wanted to come out today, Monday, the day before --

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: The day before the president.

BASH: Has his big event tomorrow in Las Vegas, because they wanted to make sure it is out there that there is a bipartisan group working independent of the president, I'm told, by several sources, in order to make sure that specifically Republicans don't get spooked.

And that they feel that they can get Republican momentum, continue to get republican momentum on this if they make it clear it is done, you know, by themselves and not with the president himself.

BALDWIN: Dana, we're going to keep this conversation going. I have more for you, but John King, why don't you hop in. I think you have Gloria Borger there, right?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I want to bring Gloria into the conversation. Because Gloria, you know, the president said he would do this in first year of his office and now in the first month of his second term.

And there's an argument from both Democrats and Republicans even though the president is going out to Vegas tomorrow. He'll outline his plan or his principles anyway for immigration reform.

There's an argument from both Democrats and Republicans because of this event today that he should step out of the way, be more quiet, why?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Well, they don't want to brand it. You know they don't want to brand it as a White House proposal because as Dana points out that's going to get a lot of Republicans pretty nervous, particularly Republicans in the House.

You know, I think what you're seeing here in the Senate is sort of a way to get away from the White House on this, to come up with their own proposal, which, by the way, is a little bit different from what the president would want. It clearly makes the path to citizenship contingent on enforcement.

It doesn't have any kind of timetable in it, at least at this point about how long this path to citizenship would take. There are certain things that Republican Senator Marco Rubio wants in this that they put in this measure.

And so, you know, I think there would be a little bit of difference from what the White House would want versus this plan. Having said that, I think that people who really want to get immigration reform done, and this is the moment, because by a 3-1 margin Republicans lost Hispanic voters in the last election.

So people who want to get something done are saying to the White House, you know, step aside, let this get some velocity on its own, and then eventually you can get involved. But don't brand it as President Obama's proposal.

KING: Gloria, standby. Dana Bash is on the Hill as well. Let's get some pre-action you might say, a reaction before the event comes out, a little bit of the input preview of the debate that's about to come.

CNN contributor, Ana Navarro is a Republican strategist and she is a close ally with Marco Rubio, one of the Republican senators involved in this. Dan Stein is the president of FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

Dan, I want to start with you. This has been an issue which conservative Republicans said no, anything that grants legal status or citizenship to someone who crossed into the country illegally is amnesty. Is it a different climate now and can you support this framework?

DAN STEIN, PRESIDENT, FEDERATON FOR AMERICAN IMMIGRATION REFORM: No, we can't support this framework. And while the climate may be somewhat different, depending how you interpret the election, it is basically the same bill for the most part, what we see is identical, almost identical to the 2006 proposal. In the end --

KING: Forgive me for interrupting, but Senator Rubio says you have de facto amnesty anyway. If you have 10 million or 11 million people who came into this country illegally and here, if you do nothing, essentially they have amnesty. What is your proposal that the government spend the money to find them and toss them out?

STEIN: Look, we've had 30 years of commissions that have made recommendations on how we can enforce our borders and make our law work and make it enforceable. And we had four years of an administration that is dismantled interior law enforcement and then we have a president who said to Congress, you know, I don't care what the law says, I cannot enforce it anyway with respect to millions of people.

The first thing Congress needs to be doing is meeting that issue and basically saying, you know, Mr. President, you do have to enforce the laws we enact or why bother passing another so-called comprehensive amnesty bill.

The second thing is, you got to have reform means fixing the problems that led you into the position you are now. We had an amnesty in 1986, 25 years ago, the American people are entitled to know what happened between 1986 and now that produced what we have today.

Why has the law not been enforced? Why do we have state and local cooperation? Why don't we have document security, information sharing, between federal agencies? Why haven't we reduced the numbers and eliminated chain migration?

This bill contains illusionary promises of future enforcement kind of like policy back wash in exchange for an immediate amnesty now. No one is -- when people take a look at this --

KING: Standby. Let me bring in -- standby. I want to hear more from you. I want to bring Ana -- the senators are coming into the room now. Ana, we'll get you on the other side. You see the Senators, three Democrats, three Republicans, Dick Durbin, Chuck Schumer, John McCain, Robert Menendez, Marco Rubio.

SENATOR CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: OK. Well, first we want to thank everybody for joining us. And we're here to announce today that the five of us here today, and eight of us in total, including Senators McCain, Durbin, Graham, Menendez, Rubio, Flake and Bennett, 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 group -- sorry, we still have a long way to go, but this bipartisan blueprint is a major breakthrough. It is our hope that these principles can be turned into legislation by March, and has 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 four 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 characteristics that will 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 groups 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 is 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 seriously -- that we are serious about permanently ending illegal immigration to the U.S., we say that we will never put these individuals on a path to citizenship until we have fully secured our borders and combated 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 is 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.

I'm going to turn it over to Senator McCain in a minute. I want to say he has been the glue in our group. His wisdom, his strength, his courage, his steadfastness, and many other adjectives that I'll skip at the moment, have really been inspiring to me and I think to all of us. And I want to just say, want me to go on? And I want to say that every member of our group, including Senator Graham, who couldn't be here today, Senator 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 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.

And I really want to thank every one of the members here. It has been so far we're only a part of the way done, there are loads of pitfalls, but it has been a great experience so far. And I think one that gives all six of us a great deal of optimism -- Senator McCain.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I'd like to thank Senator Schumer for his leadership. I would like to thank the Democratic Leader Dick Durbin. There has not been anyone in America who has fought harder for the so-called dreamers that -- than Dick Durbin has and he will continue to be -- have the gratitude of many Americans.

My friend Senator Rubio who obviously is a new but incredibly important voice in this whole issue of immigration reform, Senator Menendez also played a key role and, of course, Senator Graham, who is uncharacteristically absent from this gathering.

As Senator Schumer mentioned, it is the first step in what will continue to be difficult, but achievable. And I don't think I have to remind anyone the last major attempt was over six years ago.

Now we will again attempt to commit the remaining resources need to secure the border, modernize and streamline our current immigration system, and create a tough but fair path to citizenship for those here illegally. And I would like to testify again, security situation, along the southwest border, is not perfect.

There remains several areas, particularly in Arizona, where people's homes are being invaded, where drug smugglers are crossing property every night, and these citizens deserve the same level of security that all of us standing here have.

But there is no question there has been a significant reduction in illegal crossings over the past five years, apprehension of illegal immigrants by the border patrol have dropped 70 percent from 2005 to 2012, but their work is not yet complete.

Greater focus needs to be paid to drug traffickers, criminals that cross the border. Arizona continues to be a major smuggling corridor and distribution hub for drug trafficking organizations. To combat this, we need to continue to invest in high technology.

UAVs, radar, other proven surveillance systems that will give the border patrol the ability to detect and apprehend illegal entries into the United States. It is achievable and can be completed within the next few years if we commit to it.

The next most important step is to ensure we don't repeat the mistakes of 1986 where we gave amnesty to 3 million people, promised the border would be secure, and now, of course, we are dealing with 11 million people here illegally.

So that has to have increase in fines on employers that knowingly hire illegal workers, we have to have employment verification system that will end the hiring of future unauthorized immigrants, we need to shut off the magnet that attracts illegal workers.

We will put in place a legal worker program to provide a humane and effective system that allows immigrant workers to enter the country without seeking the aid of human traffickers or drug cartels.

Any immigration legislation that passes Congress must establish practical, legal channels for workers to enter the United States, whether high skilled, low skilled or agricultural workers so we can free up federal officials to focus on those individuals truly intending to do our nation harm through drug smuggling, people trafficking, and possibly terrorism.

Providing an expedited path to citizenship for dreamers, developing a measurement to determine when the border is truly secure, reforming our future immigration system to better meet the needs of our employers, ensuring an entry exit system to combat visa overstays.

And creating a program that makes certain U.S. agriculture has the necessary workers to maintain America's food supply are some of the issues that we have committed to addressing and solving in a bipartisan manner.

And finally, we come to the most controversial piece of immigration reform and that's how to deal with the approximately 11 million people living in the United States outside of legal status. What is going on now is unacceptable.

In reality, what has been created is a de facto amnesty. We have been too content for too long to allow individuals to mow our lawn, serve our food, clean our homes and even watch our children while not affording them any of the benefits that make our country so great.

I think everyone agrees that it is not beneficial for our country to have these people here, hidden in the shadows. Let's create a system to bring them forward, allow them to settle their debt to society and fulfill a necessary requirement to become law abiding citizens of this country.

This is consistent with our country's tradition of being a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. I'd like to read Senator Lindsey Graham's brief statement. He says, I hope the third time is a charm. I've enjoyed working with my Senate colleagues in drafting these principles and believe we're off to a good start.

The bipartisan immigration principles represent a real breakthrough on substance. And I hope they'll be seen as a breakthrough in forming a political coalition to finally solve our immigration problems. The coalition must also include the president and the House of Representatives.

My hope is immigration reform bill will start in the senate and receive an overwhelming bipartisan vote. We're a long way from having legislative language, but I believe 2013 represents us the best chance to pass immigration reform in many years.

The time is right and the way forward, while difficult, is being better defined by the day and with a reasonable amount of political give and take, we will be successful. However, if for some reason we fail in our efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform, I do believe that it will be many years before anyone is willing to try and solve this problem.

We should start this new attempt hopefully with full understanding of how difficult it is. We have been able to prevent a nuclear option in the United States senate. A lot of people don't appreciate how important it was for us to get that done.

Chuck Schumer and I and others and Dick Durbin were involved in a bipartisan effort to avert that. Thanks to the cooperation of our two leaders we were able to do that. There is a desire for bipartisanship here in this body.

I think we can show the country and the world that we are capable of tackling this issue, a looming and terrible issue that has to be resolved in a bipartisan basis. And I believe the majority of the American people support such an effort. And I want to thank my colleagues again and the ever congenial Senator Schumer.

SCHUMER: Now we'll have even more congenial Senator Durbin.

SENATOR RICHARD DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: I want to thank my colleagues, John McCain, thanks. We have been down this road before, but I feel very good about our chances this time. Chuck, thank you for your leadership on this.

I'm sure that Marco and Bob and Lindsey and I understand you've been the force behind this. If he's the glue, you're the force, and it worked. We have come to this moment.

And here we are facing the issue of immigration, nothing new in America. This nation of immigrants has been debating the issue of immigration since the first group got off the boat and wanted to know when the second group was coming.

That's been our conversation in America from the beginning. But it really is critical to remember that those immigrants whose DNA we carry had something special in their makeup, to get up and move, to come to this great nation for an opportunity they couldn't find in another place.

That's part of what we are today. And secondly, it says quite a bit about our nation, about how many people want to come here, in this free country, with this opportunity for an expanding economy. They want to be here in America.

But let's be honest about it, the third point is critically important. Our immigration system is broken. It has been broken for a long time. Sixteen years ago when I was elected to the Senate, one of the first phone calls I received and I was so honored was from Ted Kennedy.

And Ted Kennedy called this new senator and he said, I just wanted to let you know I'm chairman of the Immigration Subcommittee, you're on judiciary, I need you on there. We haven't really looked at a serious immigration law for ten years. We're going to get it done.

I signed up to be part of Ted Kennedy's team, but it didn't happen. And time passed and another 16 years and we still have a broken immigration system with 11 million people living in limbo. Well, this statement of values that we give you today is a good solid starting point for making certain that we fix the system and that we come up with a long-term approach that is fair.

It has the basics. Basics we insist on. Strengthen border security, with the best technology, using enforcement resources for the most serious security threats. Second, require employers to verify that all their employees are legal and make sure that there is a means of verification that is quick and accurate.

Third, illegal immigrants already in the United States will be given their chance to earn their way to citizenship, won't be easy. It will take them some time and determination. But were it not for the determination, they wouldn't be here in first place.

Among the requirements, of course, criminal background check, make certain that they pay any fines that we establish. Pay their taxes, which is a critical part of this whole comprehensive approach. Give them a chance to earn their way into citizenship, learning English and the basics about America's history.

And basically, four, making sure that the amount of illegal immigrants that are -- the amount of legal immigration allowed in the United States is based on the state of our economy. We are going to enshrine in here the principle that when it comes to job openings, Americans get the first grab at it.

Americans get first opportunity and that's the way it should be. We're going to make certain beyond that that there are opportunities for others and there are a variety of different ways we approach it.

Let me close by just addressing one issue near and dear that I was -- happy to have both Chuck and John refer to. It has been 12 years, 12 years since I introduced the Dream Act.

I never gave up because when you meet these young people, you can't give up, but there were some disappointing times and some sad times. And a lot of tears shed when we were unable to pass the Dream Act in the past.

The last time around, I met with these young people after the vote failed on the Senate floor, and I said to them, I'm never giving up on you, don't give up on us. That's what this is about.

The Dream Act is going to be an integral part of comprehensive immigration reform. The Dream Act will give to these young people the chance that they have been dreaming of, begging for, pleading, given an opportunity.

These young people have shown an extraordinary amount of courage. They have stepped up and self-identified to the world who they are, and when we finally met them, and we came to know who they were, this issue started moving to a place where in the last presidential campaign both candidates were asked their position on the Dream Act.

It says a lot about where this issue has brought us and I think it has been an integral part of bringing us to this moment in time. I look forward to happy news for these dreamers and to fulfilling the dreams of so many families who are looking forward to a better day in America.

SENATOR ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: Thank you. Let me join my colleagues in saying I appreciate the incredible spirit that has been displayed in these negotiations, leading to these statement of principles.

And for what I clearly sense after someone who has worked on this for years both in the house when I was there and the Senate, I am the most optimistic I have been in quite some time. And I'm not Pollyanna-ish about that at all.

I recognize there are difficult challenges ahead, but I just get a sense of a spirit and commitment that is far beyond what I have seen in some time. And the American people support this and poll after poll, when you take the elements of our principles.

They have said this is what we want to see in reform of a broken system and there is a reason for that. If I want to secure the nation, I cannot secure the nation unless I know who is here to pursue the American dream versus who might be here to do it harm.

If I have millions of people in the shadows without coming forth and registering with the government, I don't know what their ultimate purpose is here. So when we talk about the nation's security, reform is necessary for security, as it is for the elements of our principles as it relates to enhancing what we have already done in further border security.

When I talk about the nation's economy, reform is critical to the nation's economy. The reality is that even in a very tight economy. There are all types of industries in our country, which have used the work of immigrants every day, to achieve the economic goals of those industries.

If you got up this morning and had fruits for breakfast, it was probably picked by the bent back of an immigrant worker. If you, in fact, had vegetables for a chicken for lunch, you probably had it de- plucked by the hands -- the cutup hands of an immigrant worker. If you slept in a hotel or motel of the nation, you probably had your room done by an immigrant worker. If you are looking at some of the cutting edge technologies in our country, you probably saw the ability of making America more prosperous competitive place in the world by the intellect of an immigrant worker.

So in so many dimensions this is about the economy of our nation as well. And, finally, two elements of this that I think are incredibly important within the principles I support is the fact that we have seen in other countries in the world where there is no pathway to citizenship that there is instability.

The reality is, is that this will be an arduous pathway, but a fair one. It will be one in which those who have come to this country to achieve the American dream will come forth, will -- must register with the government or they'll lose their opportunities, will have to go through a criminal background check.

Will have to pay any previous taxes they did not pay, though many do pay through taxpayer I.D. numbers or a Social Security number, but nonetheless, they will have to pay anything they didn't pay before. They will have to, for first time in U.S. history, learn English to be able to even become a permanent resident.

We require that for U.S. citizenship. We have never required that for permanent resident, a higher standard. Those are some of the elements of a more arduous path, but a real opportunity at the end of the day.

And lastly, as someone who has a big advocate of making sure that our economy is strong as a result to immigration reform, but also that we preserve a core value of our society, and our history of immigration law, which is family reunification.

And how do we do that in a way that is smart and that promotes legal immigration, versus that -- that has families divided for so long and then pressures them to make choices about how do they become reunified. I believe we can take care of all of those issues.

Finally, let me just say, a word or two in Spanish and then I'll be happy to join and answer questions when it is appropriate.

KING: You're watching Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, part of a bipartisan group outlining a new immigration reform proposal that they say they're now quite confident can pass the United States Senate, but a feisty debate ahead if you follow this issue in recent years. You know that.

Let's get both sides of that debate, now CNN contributor Ana Navarro is also a Republican strategist and Dan Stein, who we spoke just before this event, president of FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

Ana, I want to come to you first on this one. The senators are saying we think we have the votes on our side where they would be able to get this through. What about the House? Republicans run the House. As you know, that is where especially in the conservative base Tea Party and other conservatives say, no, anything that allows someone who came into this country illegally to stay is amnesty, they won't have it. Can this pass the House?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I don't know if this exactly can pass the House, but I know that the House itself is moving its own project, its own bipartisan project. It has been led by folks like Javier Bacera and Luis Gutierrez on the Democrat side. It's being led by Mario Diaz-Balart on the Republican side.

And they have been meeting actually for months and years crafting a bipartisan agreement. I can tell you, John, that I have spoken to Speaker Boehner about this. Every time I see Speaker Boehner I talk to him about immigration to the point that I don't have to open my mouth anymore before he says to me, relax, we're going to do something on this.

I know also that Representative Raul Abrador who is very popular with the Tea Party who is on the Judiciary Committee is working on a set of principles, so, yes, there is commitment. There is effort that is going to be made and it is the right time.

And, you know, last time immigration reform failed because of timing, because it was brought up after Social Security had failed. That's why we cannot wait for something else to fail to bring it up this time. You do have to strike while the iron is hot.

Yes, we have heard these words before. But I can tell you, having been at the Republican House retreat, it is a different climate today than it was the last time this was done.