WASHINGTON – The "Gang of Eight" has formally introduced its 844-page plan for so-called "comprehensive immigration reform," but one senator told WND he has "major concerns" with the proposal and insists the U.S. must get its Southern border under control before moving forward.
At a press conference Thursday, the Gang of Eight defended it as the "best" and most viable solution for a compromise.
"We will oppose all amendments that inhibit a bipartisan resolution," said Sen. John McCain R-Ariz., at the press conference
McCain attacked the current immigration system, saying, "The status quo is not acceptable." He said America is "a nation with a conscious and cannot tolerate violations of human rights," which he suggested the current system does by forcing illegal aliens to "remain in the shadows."
He also defended the bill, calling it a fair solution "that Americans support" because it places the strongest emphasis on border security and will bring "these people out of the shadows."
The comprehensive immigration reform plan can be viewed here.
Despite an apparent showing of bipartisan support for the legislation, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah told WND in a post-press conference interview that he has "major concerns" with the Gang of Eight's plan.
"I do not think it is a good idea to start out an immigration reform bill that tries to address the needs of the 11 million upfront," said Lee. "We have the opportunity to straighten border security, reform our visa system and implement fully our long-sought-after visa entry and exist system."
Lee criticized the plan, saying, "This bill tries to do all of that at once."
Rather, he suggested, "What we ought to be doing is trying to fix the issue of border security. Then we can better deal with the 11 million here.
"What we want is for people to come here legally," Lee said, adding that in the past, "we have made it very easy for people to come here illegally, but not come here legally."
As for the claim that 11 to 25 million illegal aliens being legalized in the workforce will increase job competition, Lee said, "We need to address that issue carefully rather than legalizing 11 million people in one fell swoop."
He said he will likely propose amendments to the bill, but his staff is reading it.
Lee is not alone in his concerns. This week, the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform, or FAIR, hosted its "Hold their Feet to the Fire" event.
At the FAIR event, WND spoke to former Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., who predicted the Gang of Eight's plan has a 50-50 chance of passing the Senate, upon which it will be confronted by the House's anti-amnesty "Gang of Six."
The House's "Gang of Six" is Reps. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.; Lou Barletta, R-Pa.; Mo Brooks, R-Ala.; Louie Gohmert, R-Texas; Steve King, R-Iowa; and Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif."
King recently spoke out against the Gang of Eight's plan, calling it "aggressive and outrageous amnesty."
In an interview with WND, Gohmert said the plan is "a magnet drawing people into this country, some for jobs, some for amnesty."
During the Gang of Eight press conference Thursday, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., took a subtle shot at his tea-party base, saying, "To my friends who believe in limited government and free enterprise … who helped me got elected … we are a nation of immigrants. We're not going to deport them."
Rubio also conveyed his position in Spanish.
Contrary to much of the rhetoric coming from the Republican Party concerning the perceived need to win over more Hispanic votes by supporting amnesty, McCain conceded this bill "doesn't gain a single vote with the Hispanic community," but rather argued that it "will give us a chance to compete" on the same level on other issues such as national security, health care and taxes.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., spoke at length about the plan's purported benefits to the economy, saying the bill will "jump start the economy" by including millions of new legal workers and taxpayers.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., argued that the plan is the solution to the "shortage of legal labor" and will guarantee "there will not be a third wave of illegal immigration."
Graham vehemently attacked those in the Republican Party who want to have stronger limitations on immigration, saying America needs a system that "will compensate for a declining population" or America will "become like Greece." He was referring to Greece's significant aging population that doesn't have enough net financial contributors to its welfare system.
Schumer defended the integrity of the bill, stating that an "unprecedented coalition has formed" to create, support and defend it.
He said the business community and organized labor "came together" along with "some of the most conservative and progressive activists," which will help ensure that "it will not fall to usual partisan gridlock."
Schumer said he wants the legislation to receive "the highest level of scrutiny," which is why the bill will be up for three weeks for everyone to review before receiving a hearing.
Graham said the bill should really be called the "McCain-Schumer" bill, in honor of the two leaders.
Schumer became teary-eyed when he mentioned the late-Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., who has been a long-time advocate of amnesty and the Democrat partner to McCain in the 2007 McCain-Kennedy amnesty fight. Schumer said Kennedy was "a hero" and their bipartisan work "in many ways picks up where he left off."