Reaction to the emerging details of the Gang of Eight proposal on immigration reform was muted on Capitol Hill on Tuesday morning as lawmakers paused to pay respects to victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.
But a key Senate Republican said lawmakers needed to be “realistic” about creating a decade-long path to citizenship. Sen. John Cornyn III (R-Tx.) said such a plan requires lawmakers to make “promises that may or may not be possible to keep.”
“Here’s the challenge, it really is a question of trust,” said Cornyn, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Immigration, Refugees and Border Security Subcommittee. “The present congress can’t bind future congresses, nor the current president bind future presidents, so I think we need to be realistic in terms of what this present congress could bind future congresses to, in terms of goals five years and 10 years out.”
Cornyn, a longtime proponent of enhanced border security and immigration reform, nonetheless said it was time for Congress to tackle the topic and warned that the process would need to be open and transparent over several weeks to build credibility.
“No one I know believes that the status quo is acceptable … but openness; this is essential to gaining public confidence in the content of the bill. We know it’s complicated,” Cornyn said. “I can’t see any reason to undermine confidence by trying to jam it through without adequate time for people to read it and to hear from their constituents.”
Cornyn said he hoped to see the actual bill later Tuesday and said he expected the Senate Judiciary committee would take up amendments to the bill in May.
If nothing else, Cornyn said he would seek changes to the bill designed to balance the need of stopping illegal immigration at the border with speeding legitimate trade, adding a target to reduce border wait times for freight by 50 percent.
“Coming from a state with a 1,200-mile common border with Mexico … I’m very much interested in making sure public safety is protected, but that legitimate trade and commerce is also protected.”