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."