WASHINGTON -- Top senators, including Arizona Republican John McCain, confirmed on Sunday that a bipartisan Senate plan for immigration reform, expected to be unveiled next week, will include a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently in the United States.

"We can't go on forever with 11 million people living in this country in the shadows in an illegal status," McCain said on ABC's "This Week. "We cannot forever have children who were born here -- who were brought here by their parents when they were small children to live in the shadows, as well."

The comments mark a shift for McCain, who previously opposed a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, labeling such a plan "amnesty" in 2010, the same year he voted against the Dream Act. But he admitted Sunday that the GOP's poor showing among Hispanic voters in 2012 has caused the party to reconsider its position on immigration.

"What's changed, honestly, is that there is a new appreciation on both sides of the aisle, maybe more importantly on the Republican side, that we need to enact a comprehensive immigration reform bill," McCain said.

"Look at the last election. Look at the last election. We are losing dramatically the Hispanic vote, which we think should be ours, for a variety of reasons, and we've got to understand that."

Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez (N.J.) echoed McCain's statements on the same program, and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) answered "yes and yes" to a question from "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace about whether a Senate plan would be comprehensive and would include a path to citizenship.

Durbin added that "family unification" would be a high priority in any plan, which he said would include Dream Act legislation to provide undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children with a path to citizenship.

Durbin, McCain and Menendez together make up half of a bipartisan team of six senators that have been working on immigration reform for weeks, McCain said. The other members of the group are Democrat Charles Schumer of New York and Republicans Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.).

The Senate proposal appears, at least initially, to resemble a strategy being developed by President Barack Obama, who plans to announce a new push for comprehensive immigration reform on Tuesday in Nevada.

All three senators stressed on Sunday that any proposal for immigration reform would also include enhanced border security. Menendez pointed out that this was already underway.

"We've done already a lot with more customs agents. We have more Border Patrol. We have more physical impediment than any time in history," he said. "But using greater technology, focusing our resources in a better way is something that we'll achieve, looking at, making sure employers don't hire individuals who are undocumented, thinking about future flows and how we take care of the American economy by that, but also, very clearly, having a pathway to earned legalization is an essential element.

"And I think that we are largely moving in that direction as an agreement."

Related on HuffPost:

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  • The Template: California Proposition 187 (1994)

    California's Proposition 187 was submitted to the voters with the full support of then Republican governor Pete Wilson. It essentially blamed undocumented immigrants for the poor performance of the state economy in the early 1990s. The law called for cutting off benefits to undocumented immigrants: prohibiting their access to health care, public education, and other social services in California. It also required state authorities to report anyone who they suspected was undocumented. <strong>Status:</strong> The law passed with the support of 55 percent of the voters in 1994 but declared unconstitutional 1997. The law was killed in 1999 when a new governor, Democrat Gray Davis, refused to appeal a judicial decision that struck down most of the law. Even though short-lived, the legislation paved the way for harsher immigration laws to come. On the other hand, the strong reaction from the Hispanic community and immigration advocates propelled a drive for naturalization of legal residents and created as many as one million new voters.

  • The Worst: Arizona SB 1070

    The Arizona Act made it a misdemeanor for an undocumented immigrant to be within the state lines of Arizona without legal documents allowing their presence in the U.S. This law has been widely criticized as xenophobic and for encouraging racial profiling. It requires state authorities to inquire about an individual's immigration status during an arrest when there is "reasonable suspicion" that the individual is undocumented. The law would allow police to detain anyone who they believe was in the country illegally. <strong>Status:</strong> The law was signed into law by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer on April 23, 2010. But it has generated a swirl of controversy and questions about its constitutionality. A federal judge issued a ruling that blocked what critics saw as some of the law's harshest provisions. House: 35-31 (4/12/2011)

  • Following Arizona's Footsteps: Georgia HB 87

    The controversy over Arizona's immigration law was followed by heated debate over Georgia's own law. HB 87 required government agencies and private companies to check the immigration status of applicants. This law also limited some government benefits to people who could prove their legal status. <strong>Status:</strong> Although a federal judge temporarily blocked parts of the law considered too extreme, it went into effect on July 1st. 2011. House: 113-56 Senate: 39-17

  • Verifying Authorized Workers: Pennsylvania HB 1502

    This bill, which was approved in 2010, bans contractors and subcontractors employ undocumented workers from having state construction contracts. The bill also protects employees who report construction sites that hire illegal workers. To ensure that contractors hire legal workers, the law requires employers to use the identification verification system E-verify, based on a compilation of legally issued Social Security numbers. <strong>Status:</strong> Approved on June 8th 2010. House: 188-6 (07/08/2010) <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/" target="_hplink">Flickr photo by DonkeyHotey</a>

  • A Spin Off of Arizona: Utah HB 497

    Many states tried to emulate Arizona's SB 1070 law. However, most state legislatures voted against the proposals. Utah's legislature managed to approve an immigration law based on a different argument. Taking into consideration the criticism of racial profiling in Arizona, Utah required ID cards for "guest workers" and their families. In order to get such a card workers must pay a fee and have clean records. The fees go up to $2,500 for immigrants who entered the country illegally and $1,000 for immigrants who entered the country legally but were not complying with federal immigration law, <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2011/mar/06/nation/la-na-illegal-immigration-20110306" target="_hplink">according to the LA Times.</a> <strong>Status: </strong> Law went into effect on 03/15/2011 House: 59-15 (03/04/2011) Senate: 22-5 (03/04/2011)

  • The Most Comprehensive: Florida HB-1C

    Florida's immigration law prohibits any restrictions on the enforcement of federal immigration law. It makes it unlawful for undocumented immigrants within the state to apply for work or work as an independent contractor. It forbids employers from hiring immigrants if they are aware of their illegal status and requires work applicants to go through the E-verify system in order to check their Social Security number. <strong>Status: </strong>effective since October 1st, 2010

  • The Hot Seat: Alabama HB 56

    The new immigration law in Alabama is considered the toughest in the land, even harder than Arizona's SB 1070. It prohibits law enforcement officers from releasing an arrested person before his or her immigration status is determined. It does not allow undocumented immigrants to receive any state benefit, and prohibits them from enrolling in public colleges, applying for work or soliciting work in a public space. The law also prohibits landlords from renting property to undocumented immigrants, and employers from hiring them. It requires residents to prove they are citizens before they become eligible to vote. The law asked every school in the state to submit an annual report with the number of presumed undocumented students, but this part, along with others, were suspended by federal courts. <strong>Status:</strong> Approved June 2nd, 2011 House: 73-28 (04/05/2011) Senate: 23-11 (05/05/2011) <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/longislandwins/" target="_hplink">Flickr photo by longislandwins</a>