Gang of Eight Accelerates Immigration Reform Pace

"They're getting a lot of flack," he said, "and they're showing strength."

Rubio, in particular, has made it a point to go on conservative talk shows, such as Rush Limbaugh's Fox News program, and advocate for the framework.

"He's been Daniel in the lion's den," Schumer said.

"There's a trace of masochism in all three of our families," McCain quipped, speaking of himself, Rubio and Graham.

All joking aside, both senators said any bill must "maintain the center," as McCain put it. McCain added that he considered the 1986 attempt at immigration reform a form of "amnesty" because it failed to find a way to prevent people from crossing the border illegally in the future.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Schumer spoke by phone with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Sunday. Schumer said he is confident "they understand" the need for compromise. Republicans have demanded a secure border and a way for employers to verify the status of potential employees, and those points are part of the framework spelled out by the gang.

Both McCain and Schumer said they support some form of "super" Social Security card that is impervious to tampering. While Schumer said, "some on my side may not be there yet," he thinks employers need a way to weed out people trying to seek employment illegally, and that employers need to then be held accountable. He also said that the biometric scan currently administered when people enter the country legally should also be conducted when they leave to ensure people don't overstay their visas.

Schumer said he has had several face-to-face conversations with the president about immigration reform and that, "He cares about it. He knows how important it is for the economy of this country."

The two spoke Sunday night and Schumer said Obama gave his support to the gang and that "he's giving us the space to get something done." McCain said he has not personally spoken with the president about the framework.

Obama's broad immigration reform speech on Tuesday reflected that attitude, but a more specific set of principles released by the White House following the president's remarks called for several things not included in the gang's framework, including protections for same-sex couples.

While Schumer supports the idea, he underlined that the core principles of the framework take precedence, McCain called it "a red herring."

"If you load this up with social issues and things that are controversial," McCain said, "then it will endanger the issue."

Less controversial are the ideas that DREAMers - undocumented immigrants brought to the country as young people - should get priority when it comes to citizenship, and that a "special" system be put in place for agricultural workers.

While they haven't reached an agreement on all aspects of what a bill should look like, both men said they think "partisanship has reached its peak," and that they are encouraged by the bipartisan support for immigration reform.

"The bottom line is a path to citizenship for the 11 million," Schumer said.

"Having a country with 11 million people living in the shadows," McCain said, "is not something we want to teach our kids about."

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