Call Immigration Chuck Schumer's Legacy-Defining Issue

And just over a month ago, some two dozen immigrant activists occupied his office on Capitol Hill in frustration at the pace of the current legislation.

"[Schumer] is an incredibly influential leader in Washington, D.C. He hasn't used his influence to stand up for immigrant families to the extent that he should," said Gustavo Andrade, one of those arrested at Schumer's office and the organizing director of the Maryland-based group CASA in Action, which lobbies in support of Latinos and immigrants.

Andrade and other immigration advocates are responding to the state of immigration and deportation in this country. Overall, immigration from Mexico to the U.S. has fallen to net zero. Apprehensions at the border have also fallen, indicating a significant ebb in unauthorized immigration. Meanwhile, deportations have risen to record highs, resulting in the separation of hundreds of thousands of families.

Schumer says that he understands the concern over deportations, but he doesn't see eye-to-eye with groups who have become "impatient and who don't have the same view of compromise." That may well be why, even if he is not liked by many of the people he says he wants to help, and even if half the GOP wants to pick him apart, he is still the most suited to make immigration reform happen.

Schumer, after all, for better or worse, is a pragmatist. And once again, he is in a position of power to work with the people who can make reform a reality.

"That's how politics is," he said. "You can't please everybody -- the only way to please everybody is to paralyze yourself. I want to get something done."

The bottom line for him personally is to secure a path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants already residing in the country. On the other hand, he also acknowledges that a significant portion of his legacy in Congress could hinge on its success or failure.

But then he's known that since he made the decision to join the immigration committee in 2009, when he filled the vacancy left by the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.). Kennedy was a personal hero of Schumer's, and Schumer wanted to finish the work Kennedy had started two years earlier, when he and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) tried and failed to pass an immigration reform bill.

"It's sort of a solemn trust from him to get this done in the right way," Schumer said.

A trust that could reshape this country, as well as Chuck Schumer.

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