WASHINGTON -- Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) came close on Wednesday to drawing a line in the sand over the inclusion of same-sex couples in comprehensive immigration reform.
"Which is more important: LGBT or border security?" he said at an event hosted by Politico. "I'll tell you what my priorities are. If you're going to load it up with social issues, that is the best way to derail it, in my view."
McCain is part of an eight-member group -- four Democrats and four Republicans -- that released a framework for immigration reform on Monday. That plan does not include any mention of same-sex couples, who currently cannot petition for green cards for even their legally-married spouses under the Defense of Marriage Act.
Obama came out in support of changing immigration law to help same-sex binational couples, and the White House invited some of them to Las Vegas for the president's Tuesday speech on reform. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus also included a fix on the issue in its principles for immigration reform.
McCain called it a "red herring," comparing it to adding taxpayer-funded abortion to a final bill, an argument made Tuesday by his fellow group member Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
The "gang of eight" has not yet discussed it, McCain said.
"I'll be glad to talk about it, discuss what the ramifications are and all of that, but if somebody views that as the most important aspect of comprehensive immigration reform then we just have a fundamental disagreement," McCain said.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), another member of the group who also appeared at the Politico event, said it will considered. He is a co-sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act, a bill that would allow same-sex couples to petition the government for green cards for their foreign-born partners. That bill has three Republican co-sponsors: Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Reps. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) and Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.).
"I'm a sponsor of this bill, I'm for it, I care about it," Schumer said. "We haven't discussed it yet, and certainly it will be one of the issues on the table, but as John said, we first have to get our basic structure and framework before we make decisions on this."
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"Gang Of Eight"
A <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/28/immigration-reform-framework_n_2566494.html?1359387491">bipartisan group of senators</a> have come together to address the issue of immigration reform. The group consists of four members of each party -- Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado, plus Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Marco Rubio of Florida, John McCain of Arizona and Jeff Flake of Arizona. Their framework was announced Monday.
Pathway To Citizenship
A <a href="http://www.docstoc.com/docs/142894316/Bipartisan-immigration-plan">"tough but fair" </a> road to citizenship is the main tenet of the bipartisan immigrant plan. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is the most significant supporter of this idea, giving hope to those who doubt Republicans will support the plan.
The New Process
The new process of obtaining citizenship would be just that -- a process. Probationary citizens would be required to pass an additional background check, learn English, pay taxes and show that they have a history of employment to apply for permanent residence and a green card. Undocumented immigrants will receive green cards after all probationary citizens have been processed, ensuring that documented immigrants are addressed first. Separate processes would be designed for young undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children and agricultural workers.
Enforcement, Then Green Cards
The first goal, before any green cards are handed out, is to "demonstrate our commitment to securing our borders and combating visa overstays," the senators say in their framework.
Enhance Border Security And Drones
Emphasizing enforcement measures, the framework calls for increased boarder control, including more border agents and aerial surveillance and drones. A new system would be added to ensure visa stays are being adhered to, along with a commission of border lawmakers to aid legislation.
Increase Employment Verification
The senators have proposed to create an "effective employment verification system" that would help prevent identity theft while allowing employers to feel secure in hiring documented immigrants.
No Benefits For Probationary Immigrants
Immigrants who are in the probationary category would not be eligible for federal benefits in the senators' framework. This addresses the concern that public benefits, particularly health-related ones, are being spent on undocumented immigrants.
An Easier Path For 'The Best And Brightest'
The framework recognizes that a different sort of process would be needed for "the best and brightest," including highly-skilled workers and those with higher education. This has been previously addressed in the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/28/stem-act-white-house-immigration_n_2207279.html">STEM Act </a> which was ultimately vetoed by the White House.