(Photo: REUTERS/Gary Cameron)
A bipartisan group of senators, known as the "gang of eight," announced Monday an immigration reform agreement. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), one of the gang of eight, held a conference call with supporters, including Christian leaders, thanking them for their effort, according to sources familiar with the call.
The gang of eight proposal has four main parts: a path to citizenship for current unauthorized immigrants contingent upon securing the borders, improving the legal immigration system with a focus on immigrants that help the economy, an employment verification system that will punish employers who hire unauthorized immigrants, and an improved temporary immigrant worker program.
In addition to Rubio, the gang of eight includes Republicans Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), and John McCain (Ariz.), and Democrats Michael Bennet (Colo.), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Robert Menendez (N.J.) and Chuck Schumer (N.Y.).
The proposal appears consistent with the principles for immigration reform suggested by the Evangelical Immigration Table. Those principles state that immigration reform should respect the God-given dignity of every person, protect the unity of the immediate family, respect the rule of law, guarantee secure national borders, ensure fairness to taxpayers, and establish a path to legal status or citizenship for current unauthorized immigrants.
Rubio's call to supporters included leaders from religious, business and law enforcement groups. About twenty of the roughly 60 supporters on the call were religious leaders, including Esperanza, Liberty Counsel, National Association of Evangelicals, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, and The Southern Baptists Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
The gang of eight was not planning to announce their plan this early, but decided it would be best to announce first when President Barack Obama scheduled a major policy speech on immigration reform for Tuesday. Their concern was that Obama's announcement would derail their effort if it were perceived by House Republicans to be a White House plan. In a Monday afternoon press conference, gang of eight members repeatedly emphasized the bipartisan nature of the proposal.
Immigration will not be used as a "wedge issue" to divide the parties, Schumer said, adding, "We believe this will be the year Congress finally gets it done."
The proposal is similar in many ways to a bill that passed in the House but failed to pass in the Senate during President George W. Bush's second term. Graham and McCain were two of the leading Republicans pushing for support of that bill.
As chair of the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), a former immigration attorney, will lead the immigration reform efforts in the House.
In a statement provided to The Christian Post, Goodlatte acknowledged that the immigration system is "in desperate need of repair and it is not working as efficiently and fairly as it should be." Regarding the proposal, he said there is "a lot to discuss" and "a lot of questions about how this would work."
"Immigration reform must honor both our foundation of the rule of law and our legacy as a nation of immigrants," Goodlatte added.