Democrats who wrote the immigration bill insisted they didn’t give up any core principles in agreeing to more fencing and adding 20,000 Border Patrol agents to the southwest border, telling Univision that illegal immigrants will still get legal status well before the new security kicks in.
In an interview on the Spanish-language network’s Al Punto political talk show Sunday, the four Democrats among the “Gang of Eight” that crafted the bill said the people currently in the U.S. illegally will have a definite pathway to eventual citizenship because the “triggers” in the bill can all be readily met.
“There are triggers but they’re the same triggers we’ve had in the bill before, the same exact type which are specific and attainable. These are triggers that we all feel comfortable with will be achieved and have to be achieved,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat.
The four Democrats have faced criticism from immigrant-rights groups who said the lawmakers conceded too much to Republicans in a search for votes.
One Maryland group derided the new security provisions as a “backroom deal” while Pablo Alvarado, director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said Democrats were wasting their election mandate and caving to “xenophobes” in the GOP.
“It is time for senators and the president to take a stand and to start defending immigrants and our cherished national values, rather than pre-emptively conceding to nativists,” he said.
Late last week the four agreed to the boost in fencing and Border Patrol agents as a way of bringing about a half-dozen more Republicans onboard, and said they hope to sway others when the time comes for a final vote.
“It’s a significant commitment and it really says to our friends on the Republican side who have insisted on this, this is how serious we are,” said Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat. “We’re willing to put that massive number on the border, even though some of us may question it, to show our commitment and good faith to border security.”
The senators disputed part of the new Congressional Budget Office report saying that 75 percent of illegal immigration will continue even after the bill is passed. The CBO said much of that will come from people who enter as guest workers or on other temporary visas and refuse to go home when their time is up.
But the senators did tout the CBO’s finding that the legislation will reduce federal deficits by adding more taxpaying workers to the labor force.
The senators defended some of the compromises they had to make, including setting a cutoff date for legalization to apply to those who came before 2012.
Mr. Schumer raised the possibility of revisiting that in the future, particularly to legalize children who may have arrived after the Dec. 31, 2011, deadline.
“My hope is, you know, that we look at that in future years,” Mr. Schumer told host Jorge Ramos, “but right now, no, and we would not advise people to come now in hopes that they would be legalized because that’s not going to happen.”
Mr. Schumer also had harsh words for fellow Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican and son of a Cuban immigrant, who has called the Senate bill an amnesty because it grants legal status in the short term and doesn’t require results.
“All I can tell you is when he argues, he is so filled with anger and he doesn’t look at the facts,” Mr. Schumer, the bill’s chief author, said. “Here’s what I’d like to ask Sen. Cruz. Isn’t the real reason that you object to our bill is you are against the path to citizenship? Why don’t you just come out and say that?”