Senators pledge action on immigration reform, local Latino group - | WBTV Charlotte

Senators pledge action on immigration reform, local Latino group responds

Key Democratic and Republican senators are pledging to get a wide-ranging immigration bill through the Senate by summer even as they point to numerous pitfalls ahead.

The group of eight senators unveiled proposals Monday to secure the border, allow more guest workers, require tougher verification measures by employers and create a path to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants already in the country.

They expressed optimism they can succeed where numerous past efforts have failed. Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona said November's election losses show Republicans they need to take steps to win over Latino voters.

But the senators quickly encountered a cool reaction from other lawmakers, including Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who said immigration legislation is too important to be written in a back room.

"We feel really good that immigration is back in the national conversation," Armando Bellmas with the Latin American Coalition said.

It's a conversation President Barack Obama said he would make a priority during his 2008 campaign but it was silenced two years later when the Dream Act failed.

"The primary thing for us as far as immigration reform is concerned is keeping immigrant families together..many of the families we see here at the Latin American Coalition are mixed status families...meaning there is an undocumented family member and a US citizen family member," Bellmas said.

In a statement to WBTV, Senator Kay Hagen praised the bipartisan group for working to find common ground. "Too many important issues have gone unaddressed in Washington because of partisan bickering...I continue to support a comprehensive approach to immigration reform, and I will consider any proposals in that context."

The next thing to find out is what the House has in mind and what the President has to say about the issue Tuesday in Nevada.

The last time Congress attempted to overhaul immigration laws was in 2007. The bill died after Republicans argued it amounted to amnesty for illegal immigrants.

Copyright 2013 WBTV. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.

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