Schumer: Gang of 8 Has 'Substantive Agreement' on Immigration Issues
WASHINGTON - Sen. Chuck Schumer said today that while there is not a final deal on immigration legislation just yet, the bi-partisan "Gang of Eight" senators working on immigration reform has reached a "substantive agreement" on the major components of an immigration plan.
"It is not a done deal. We have to draft the legislation. We have to have the group of eight sign off on the specific language, but we have substantive agreement on all the major pieces now between the eight of us," the Democrat from New York said in an interview with ABC News Sunday.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., made a similar statement today and said that he expects the parameters of the plan to be revealed next week.
"I think we've got a deal. We've got to write the legislation, but 2013, I hope, will be the year that we pass bipartisan immigration reform," Graham said on CNN's "State of the Union." "It's got to be written off. We haven't signed off. There are a few details yet. But conceptually, we have an agreement between business and labor, between ourselves that has to be drafted. It will be rolled out next week."
On Friday, business and labor leaders came to an agreement on a visa program for low-skilled immigrant workers, a major turning point in the debate on immigration reform.
In what the AFL-CIO described as the "W-Visa" program, 20,000 visas would be available for low-skilled workers beginning in April of 2015. The number of available visas would increase gradually in the following years but would never go above 200,000 or dip below 20,000 in any given year. Only 15,000 visas would be allocated to construction jobs each year.
"The fact that business and labor have come to an agreement overcomes the last major substantive hurdle we've had in our negotiations," Schumer told ABC News.
But the deal on a guest worker program does not mean the senate group's plan is finalized, because the Gang of Eight still has to hammer out details including border security and the path to citizenship and write the actual legislation.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., one of the members of the bipartisan group working on immigration, said today that reports of a final deal being reached are "premature," and he called for more hearings and discussion on the topic of immigration so that a "healthy public debate" is conducted.
"Arriving at a final product will require it to be properly submitted for the American people's consideration, through the other 92 senators from 43 states that weren't part of this initial drafting process," Rubio said in a statement. "In order to succeed, this process cannot be rushed or done in secret."
ABC News' Carlos Boettcher contributed to this report.