Monday, April 1 2013, 04:18 PM MDT
'Gang of 8' Senators Clears Major Hurdle With Labor, Business Groups
(CBS) Congress could be close to its first major immigration overhaul in more than two decades.
A bi-partisan group of senators may be close to a deal that could reach the floor for a vote later this spring.
Congressional negotiators are working behind the scenes to have an immigration deal ready when lawmakers get back from break.
The so-called Gang of 8 Senators, four Democrats and four Republicans, cleared a major hurdle with labor and business groups. They've signed off on a guest worker program that could allow tens of thousands of low-skill workers to come to the U.S. for construction, hotel and restaurant jobs.
Another major sticking point is a pathway to citizenship for the illegal immigrants already here in the U-S.
"I think over time, people have become more comfortable when they see the steps that have to be taken before somebody gets on that path to citizenship,” says Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ).
According to a Congressional aide with knowledge of the talks, those steps include paying fines and multiple applications for worker permits. The citizenship process will take more than 10 years.
Many Republicans are cautioning about rushing a Senate bill that won't pass the GOP-controlled House. But reform advocates say momentum is on their side.
President Obama has made immigration reform a top of his second term and has his own wish list for reform.
Jay Carney/ White House Spokesperson "I think we've seen from the progress being made in the Senate by the so called Group of 8, that those principles are reflected in the work they are doing,” White House spokesperson Jay Carney says.
Senators say a vote on comprehensive immigration reform could come as early as May.
One prominent Republican member of the Gang of 8, Senator Marco Rubio, called reports of any deal premature.
The senator from Florida also said that the group's bill will only be a starting point.