US Republicans targeted on immigration reforms

John McCain is a member of the so-called Gang of Eight. Picture: Getty
John McCain is a member of the so-called Gang of Eight. Picture: Getty
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Dozens of hardline Republican Senators are being targeted in an effort to pass major US immigration reforms, creating a “show of force” that will push the legislation through Congressional gridlock.

Up to 24 politicians who are normally written off for being too conservative will instead be wooed with the benefits of a “path to citizenship” for America’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.

Supporters hope the legislation will avoid the same fate as the recent gun control reform package which failed due to the dysfunction and rancour that has taken hold on Capitol Hill.

Instead the backers would attempt to gather enough votes to create a supermajority of at least 70 votes in the Senate and get the reforms passed.

This would create a sense of momentum and put significant pressure on the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to avoid blocking or stalling the changes.

The proposals on the table are the 844-page reform bill from the “Gang of Eight”, a bipartisan group of Senators led by Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, and former presidential candidate John McCain, a Republican from Arizona.

The ambitious plan is the first effort to comprehensively overhaul immigration since 2007 when proposals did not even make it through the Senate.

It is a delicate balancing act and in addition to the path to citizenship – which could take as long as 13 years – there would be tougher security on the US-Mexico border.

According to US politics website Politico, the Republicans who will be targeted this time around will include those who feel strongly about the issue and want the party to do more on it.

Others who will be lobbied are influential Senators who are key to persuading others to give their approval.

Some would also be retiring soon and might be worried how their legacy will look, whilst others represent agricultural states which rely on large numbers of cheap labourers, many of whom are in America illegally.

As a sign of the challenge ahead, among those on the target list is Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming who in the past backed a law to stop illegal immigrants even having a driver’s licence.

This week, after a return from Congressional recess, the Senate judiciary committee will scrutinise the Gang of Eight’s bill with any amendments having to be filed by the end of today.

Republicans are being forced to do something about immigration, an issue they have not engaged with in the past, because of their disastrous performance at the last US election.

President Obama won 71 per cent of the Latino vote while Republican candidate Mitt Romney won just 27 per cent.