“We want immigration reform, but we don’t think you have to do that through some kind of blanket amnesty,” DeMint said in an interview.
Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), both members of the bipartisan group, said Thursday that they hope the proposal will win majority support from both parties in the Senate, thus putting more pressure on the House.
In addition to a path to citizenship, the Senate proposal calls for increased security along borders and in workplaces, new visa programs for low-skilled and high-tech workers, and the reduction of some family-based visas. A bipartisan group of House members is negotiating a similar comprehensive package with a 15-year path to citizenship.
Obama has deferred to the Senate group over the past two months, hoping that bipartisan momentum would help prevent the pitfalls that sank his gun-control legislation this month.
But on Thursday, appearing in Dallas at the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, Obama noted Bush’s support for immigration reform and made a pointed reference to Boehner, who was in the audience.
“Even though comprehensive immigration reform has taken a little longer than any of us expected,” Obama said, “I am hopeful that this year, with the help of Speaker Boehner and some of the senators and members of Congress who are here today, that we bring it home for our families and our economy and our security.”
Conservative criticism has been focused most heavily in recent days on Rubio, a tea party favorite who was helped into office by DeMint, one of the leading critics of an immigration deal.
DeMint said in an interview this week that he remains a supporter in general of Rubio. But he added that the senator’s immigration views do not match the views he thought they shared.
Rubio has tried to walk a fine line on immigration, emphasizing that he supports a deliberate process that allows time for debate over the Senate group’s legislation.
In a statement Thursday, the senator said he would examine Goodlatte’s immigration proposals — which focus on visas for foreign agriculture workers and employment verification systems — to determine whether they offer ideas that the Senate can incorporate in its bill.
“These House measures are important starting points for the debate that will take place there,” Rubio said.
Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, an immigration advocacy group, predicted that Goodlatte’s approach will make it harder for Boehner and Ryan to move forward on a bipartisan approach.
“While modernizers want the Republican Party to achieve a major policy victory and regain its electoral competitiveness with Latino voters, Goodlatte’s move seems intent on dooming both,” Sharry said.
Peter Wallsten contributed to this report.
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