To that end, the bill’s four Democratic and four Republican authors were looking for ways to accept Republican amendments on border security and other issues that could win over additional supporters — without making the path to citizenship so onerous that Democratic support is threatened.
“Just because the process has been to date so encouraging does not mean we can take anything for granted. So we welcome constructive input from our colleagues, we want to work with them,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., one of the authors. “But the one thing none of us will do is condition the path to citizenship on factors that may not ever happen in order to appear tough.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a potential 2016 Republican presidential contender and the author of the bill with the strongest ties to conservatives, said that about half the Senate’s Republicans might be prepared to back the measure — but only with stronger border provisions.
An early skirmish took shape over a proposal by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. It would permit the legalization process to begin but require several changes before anyone currently in the country illegally could receive a green card that confers permanent legal residence.
Those changes include apprehension of at least 90 percent of those seeking to cross into the United States at every segment of the southern border, implementation of a biometric exit system at all airports and seaports of entry and a nationwide E-Verify system to check the legal status of prospective employees.
Democratic supporters of the legislation have deemed Cornyn’s plan a “poison pill,” designed to wreck the bill’s chances for passage instead of enhance them. But the Texan told reporters he had some leverage to force changes, if nothing else.
“I think if they had 60 votes to pass a bill out of the Senate, they probably wouldn’t be talking to me. And they are,” Cornyn said of majority Democrats.
AP Special Correspondent David Espo contributed to this report.