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Senators McCain, Menendez and Durbin: Path to Citizenship Will Be Part of Senate Immigration Bill

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mccain menendezThis morning, Senators John McCain and Robert Menendez appeared on ABC’s “This Week.” Both are part of the so-called “Gang of Six” working on immigration legislation, so what they say really matters as the debate unfolds. McCain and Menendez both emphasized that path to citizenship for the 11 million is a key part of their proposal. In fact, the host, Martha Raddatz, asked McCain directly, “But what about a path to citizenship?” He replied, “That has to be also part of it.” And, both Senators discussed the political imperatives of passing reform legislation.

Also, on Fox News Sunday, Senator Dick Durbin, who is also one of the six Senators in the working group on immigration, said citizenship is part of their plan:

The Senate’s second-ranking Democrat said Sunday that a soon-to-be-introduced immigration reform measure will be a broad package that includes a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

“We are committed to a comprehensive approach,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said on “Fox News Sunday.”

We should see language from the Senators later this week.

More from ABC News:

Two senators at the center of negotiations over comprehensive immigration reform, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said on Sunday that a pathway to citizenship is an essential component of a comprehensive reform bill.

“That has to be also part of it,” McCain told ABC News’ Martha Raddatz on “This Week” when asked whether a pathway to citizenship would be a component of reform. “There’s a new appreciation on both sides of the aisle including, maybe more importantly on the Republican side of the aisle, that we have to enact comprehensive immigration reform.”

McCain said that a small group of Senators will release the principles of a comprehensive, not “piecemeal,” reform bill this week.

“I’m very pleased with the progress,” McCain said. “It’s not that much different from what we tried to do in 2007.”

Menendez, who met with President Obama on Friday along with other members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus leadership, said that the president expressed his full commitment to reform.

“The president made it very clear in that discussion that this was a top legislative priority for him in this session of the Congress and that he expects to work with all of us in an effort to achieve that goal and he’s fully committed to it.”

He added that a pathway to “earned legalization” is an “essential element” of an immigration reform bill.

On the politics of the issue, Menendez laid it out clearly:

“First, Americans support it in poll after poll. Secondly, Latino voters expect it. Thirdly Democrats want it. And fourth Republicans need it,” Menendez said. (emphasis added)

That line from Menendez rings true to us.

As Pema Levy at Talking Points Memo noted, the politics of passing an immigration bill are critically important to Republicans, per McCain:

“I’ll give you a little straight talk,” McCain said on ABC’s “This Week” when asked how Republicans could be convinced to include a path to citizenship in a reform package. “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.” (emphasis added)

In other words, Republicans need it. Elections do matter. And, the Latino vote in the 2012 elections changed the political dynamics of the immigration.

The full transcript from “This Week” is here.