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Immigration Plan Slipping Because No Proposal, Leahy Says

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy
U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he urged President Barack Obama “for months” to send a proposal to the Senate for consideration. Photographer: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg

Senate consideration of legislation to revise U.S. immigration laws will be delayed because a bipartisan Senate group hasn’t produced a bill, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said.

The committee won’t act on an immigration overhaul plan before May at the earliest, Leahy said today at a hearing in Washington.

“Because we do not yet have legislative language to debate, the Senate Judiciary Committee will not be able to report a comprehensive immigration bill by the end of April, which was my goal,” the Vermont Democrat said.

Leahy said he urged President Barack Obama “for months” to send an immigration proposal to the Senate. He said the White House opted not to, deferring to a bipartisan group of eight senators that has been meeting privately since late last year to craft a plan.

Those senators “are engaged in secret, closed-door discussions on their own proposal” and had originally “committed to completing it by the beginning of March,” Leahy said. “That deadline and others have come and gone.”

One of four Democratic senators in the group, Charles Schumer of New York, is chairman of the Judiciary subcommittee that has jurisdiction over immigration issues.

Congress plans to begin a two-week break at the end of this week.

Congressional Recess

“The upcoming recess period would have allowed all members of the committee and the American people to review the legislation,” Leahy said. “Now that process and our work will be delayed at least a month.”

The Senate group unveiled its principles in late January, including a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Obama called on Congress to address the issue while saying he would hold off on his proposal to give the Senate group time to do its work.

“The group remains on pace to complete a deal by the end of the month,” Schumer spokesman Brian Fallon said in an e-mail. “In fact, we are very, very close to a final agreement. We hope the committee will take up the bill in April.”

White House officials told religious leaders who met with Obama March 8 that they anticipated the senators drafting immigration legislation would miss their March target date and instead unveil the bill in April.

“I have favored an open and transparent process during which all 18 senators serving on the Senate Judiciary Committee will have the opportunity to participate and to propose or oppose ideas for reform,” Leahy said.

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