New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, co-authors of a stalled bipartisan comprehensive immigration overhaul that includes a “path to citizenship” for the country’s estimated 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants, said Sunday that Tuesday’s election results have created a new impetus for reforms.
In an appearance Sunday on “Meet the Press,” Mr. Schumer, a Democrat, said the overwhelming support among Hispanic voters for President Obama’s re-election sent a clear signal to Republicans.
“I think we have a darn good chance using this blueprint to get something done this year. The Republican Party has learned that being anti-immigrant doesn’t work for them politically and they know it.”
Mr. Schumer said the “path to citizenship” — denounced by foes of illegal immigration as “amnesty” — would require of immigrants that “you have to learn English, you have to go to the back of the line, you got to have a job and you can’t commit crimes.”
Mr. Graham, appearing on CBS-TV’s “Face the Nation,” said the falling support for Republicans among Hispanic voters is a trend the party has to address.
“It’s one thing to shoot yourself in the foot, just don’t reload the gun,” he said. “[Republican] have no one to blame but themselves when it comes to losing Hispanics and we can get them back with some effort on our part.”
The South Carolina Republican acknowledged that the Schumer-Graham plan includes a pathway to citizenship, but only after the Southwest border is secured.
“You do nothing until you fix the border,” he said. “When it comes to the 12 million, we need to be firm and fair. Self-deportation’s not going to work.”
The resurrection of the Schumer-Graham plan comes after House Speaker John A. Boehner made it clear last week that he is open to an immigration overhaul.
In an interview with ABC on Thursday, two days after his party saw Hispanics vote overwhelmingly for Democrats, Mr. Boehner said the time had come to address immigration.
“This issue has been around far too long and while I believe it’s important for us to secure our borders and to enforce our laws, I think a comprehensive approach is long overdue, and I’m confident that the president, myself, others, can find the common ground to take care of this issue once and for all,” he said.
His use of the word “comprehensive” set off alarm bells within the GOP because that is the term immigrant-rights advocates use for legislation that would legalize most of the estimated 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants now in the U.S., as well as rewrite the legal-immigration system.
Reaction to Mr. Boehner’s overture came quickly from the immigration hard-liners in the GOP.
“I’m concerned that Speaker Boehner is getting ahead of House Republicans when he commits to getting a ‘comprehensive approach’ to immigration taken care of ‘once and for all,’” Rep. John Fleming, Louisiana Republican, said in a statement late Thursday, telling Mr. Boehner to “pull back” on his comments.
Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican and vice chairman of the House subcommittee that handles immigration, took to Twitter to reject the idea of a GOP U-turn on immigration, saying the party shouldn’t get into a bidding war with Democrats to try to buy Hispanics’ allegiance, because they will never bid high enough.
“Obama voters chose dependency over Liberty. Now establishment R’s want citizenship for illegals. You can’t beat Santa Claus with amnesty,” Mr. King tweeted Thursday evening.
But other prominent conservatives have said the election should prompt rethinking of the GOP’s stance on immigration. Radio show host Sean Hannity said Thursday that he now supports a pathway to citizenship, and columnist Charles Krauthammer said Republicans should unapologetically embrace amnesty.
“Yes — amnesty. Use the word,” Mr. Krauthammer wrote Thursday in his election analysis.
Friday morning, at his weekly press conference, Mr. Boehner clarified his intentions on the issue.
“I’m not talking about a 3,000-page bill,” he said. “What I’m talking about is a common sense, step-by-step approach that secures our borders, allows us to enforce our laws and fix our broken immigration system.”