POLITICS
02/08/2013 05:10 pm ET

Condoleezza Rice Joins Newly-Formed Bipartisan Immigration Group

FILE - In this July 19, 2012, file photo, Condoleezza Rice talks on the Stanford University campus in Palo Alto, Calif. Rice
FILE - In this July 19, 2012, file photo, Condoleezza Rice talks on the Stanford University campus in Palo Alto, Calif. Rice has joined CBS News as a contributor. CBS News Chairman Jeff Fager and president David Rhodes say Rice "will use her insight and vast experience to explore issues facing America at home and abroad." Rice served as secretary of state during President George W. Bush’s second term. She was the first African-American woman to hold the post. Rice was Bush’s national security adviser during his first term and worked on the National Security Council under President George H.W. Bush.(AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

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."

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