Who Are the Gang Of 8 in Senate Immigration Debate?

Bigartisan Group Proposed Immigration Overhaul

ByABC News
January 29, 2013, 5:01 PM

Jan. 30, 2013 -- intro:The Senate's so-called "Gang of 8" has gained national attention in the past week by announcing sweeping plans for bipartisan immigration reform. But who can count themselves as members of Capitol Hill's newest clique? ABC News took a closer look at the Senators who make up the group.

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quicklist:1title:Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. text: The son of Cuban immigrants, Rubio has become a superstar among Republicans since joining the Senate in 2011. He has favored a blueprint for reform that includes a multitude of requirements for obtaining citizenship, including background checks and the payment of back taxes.

But one sticking point for Rubio is that the pathway to citizenship not be opened until America's border with Mexico is verifiably more secured. He recently told Rush Limbaugh he believes health care reform is essential to the success of immigration reform. "'Obamacare' is the only federal benefit [for] which you qualify not because you have a green card, but only because you're lawfully present," said Rubio.

He has softened his stance since first being elected in 2010. Back then, in a Fox News debate, he said that he would never support a pathway to citizenship. Rubio is widely viewed as a strong contender for the 2016 Republican presidential candidacy.

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quicklist:2title: Sen. John McCain, R- Ariz.text:An outspoken proponent of reform, McCain has long been involved in the issue of immigration, splitting with other Republican leaders and spearheading legislation that ultimately failed in 2006. While heading off a conservative challenge in his 2010 Senate primary, McCain focused on border security instead of a comprehensive plan. In one famous ad, he told an Arizona sheriff the government needed to "complete the dang fence" on the border with Mexico.

"We have been too content for too long to allow individuals to mow our lawns, grow our food, clean our homes, and even watch our children while not affording them any of the benefits that make our country so great," McCain said at a news conference announcing the gang's plan on Monday. McCain's return to the issue of immigration with the "Gang of 8" provides key bipartisanship.

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quicklist:3title: Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. text: In 2010, Senator Lindsey Graham said that the security of U.S. borders must precede any comprehensive reform.

"Illegal immigration is a nightmare for America," he said. "Giving a pathway to citizenship without first securing the border is an inducement to encourage more illegal immigration."

Graham supported and helped craft the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007. He told CBS' "Face The Nation" last year that illegal immigrants "can't stay unless they learn our language."


quicklist:4title: Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. text: Newly elected from Arizona, Flake highlighted the importance of input from border state senators, saying in a news release, "I'm also particularly pleased that there is bipartisan support to include the input of border communities. Not only will security be strengthened according to Washington, D.C., but border communities will have a say as well."

Flake replaced Sen. Jon Kyl in the Senate. Kyl helped craft previous attempts at comprehensive reform.

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quicklist:5title:Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. text:Schumer has taken a lead among Democrats in crafting the bipartisan framework.

"This will be the year Congress finally gets it done," he declared. He said his goal is to have a bill passed by Congress before lawmakers leave Washington for the summer.

Calling the current immigration system broken, Schumer drafted and passed the Emergency Border Security Supplemental Appropriations Act in 2010, which provided over $600 million to increase border security. According to Schumer's website, the money was used to hire new Border Patrol agents who are stationed on the U.S./Mexican border and 250 new agents at various points of entry into the United States.


quicklist: 6title: Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J. text: Menendez, the son of Cuban immigrant parents, was a co-sponsor of DREAM Act legislation in 2011 that would have allowed students to have legal citizenship if they passed a background check, came to the United States as children, and completed two years of college or military service. That version of the DREAM Act was subsequently killed by a Senate filibuster.

But President Obama has used executive action and promised not to deport so-called DREAMers. Menendez has called immigration reform "the civil rights issue of our time."

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quicklist:7title: Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo. text:Several weeks before the Gang of 8's public announcement Monday, the Senator Micheal Bennet signed the "Colorado Compact," a bipartisan call for immigration reform talks aimed to potentially impact federal reform. In 2009, Bennet also supported the DREAM Act.


quicklist:8title:Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill. text:Majority Senate Whip Dick Durbin, the principal author of the DREAM act, rounds out the gang, saying he supports the four pillars of the proposed reform: