By ERICA WERNER, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON — Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is part of a new bipartisan group that will push for an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws and a path to citizenship for estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.
The other co-chairs of the new effort are former Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell; former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros, a Democrat; and former Republican Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, several people involved told The Associated Press on Friday.
The high-profile group, brought together by the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, will aim to keep up momentum behind overhauling immigration and serve as a sounding board for policy makers, Rendell said.
The effort is also meant to underscore that there is a bipartisan consensus behind passing immigration legislation. Bipartisan Senate negotiators are aiming to finalize a bill by March and get it through the Senate by summer, although success is far from certain. Even if legislation gets through the Senate the Republican-led House would still have to approve it. President Barack Obama is also pushing on the issue.
"I hope it makes plain that there is bipartisan support for pro-growth solutions that would result from immigration reform," Barbour said in an interview.
Rendell said that, "there are a lot of issues that are yet to be resolved and it's going to take a lot of goodwill and a lot of patience, and anyone who thinks we're going to have an immigration bill by the end of March is probably a cockeyed optimist."
"Obviously this cannot wait," Cisneros said. "If we're going to be helpful we need to weigh in immediately."