STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Lat night in Washington, Senate Democrats unveiled an immigration overhaul that they would like Congress to pass this year. Not one Republican backs that effort.
Heres NPR's David Welna.
DAVID WELNA: Senate Democrats had barely finished fighting back a GOP filibuster blocking their financial regulatory overhaul when five of their leaders rolled out yet another proposal to revamp the nation's laws.
They're calling it a framework for immigration reform. With unemployment rampant and states' budgets in dire straits, it might not seem the best time to decide how to deal with illegal immigrants.
But Dick Durbin, the Senate's number two Democrat, says Arizona's move last week taking immigration enforcement into its own hands left Congress no choice but to act.
Senator DICK DURBIN (Democrat, Illinois): It's worth quoting what the Arizona Association of the Chiefs of Police have said. Quote: "We strongly urge the U.S. Congress to immediately initiate the necessary steps to begin the process of comprehensively addressing the immigration issue to provide solutions that are fair, logical, and equitable."
WELNA: In their proposal, Democrats acknowledge widespread concern about violence along the U.S.-Mexico border and the need to get things under control.
Senator CHARLES SCHUMER (Democrat, New York): Our framework is fix the border first, but don't just fix the border.
WELNA: That's New York Democrat Charles Schumer, who succeeded the late Ted Kennedy as chairman of the subcommittee dealing with immigration laws.
Schumer is now the leading advocate for a new rewrite of those laws. The centerpiece of his proposal is making sure all employees are in the U.S. legally, and to do that it calls for a biometric version of a familiar document.
Sen. SCHUMER: Our framework creates a fraud-proof, hi-tech version of the Social Security card every one of us has. New hires must show this card to their employers who will swipe the cards through a machine to confirm their identity and immigration status.
WELNA: Like Congress's last attempt at an immigration overhaul, this one draws a path to legal status for more than 10 million people in the country illegally.
California Democrat Dianne Feinstein says they would have to register with the government, pay back taxes, learn English, and go to the back of the line for citizenship.
Senator DIANNE FEINSTEIN (Democrat, California): What we have in mind is not amnesty. It's a tough and fair path forward for those who have contributed to American society.
WELNA: But as with so many of their other initiatives, the Democrats have not convinced any Republicans to co-sponsor this measure.
Majority Leader Harry Reid says the Republican's stance makes no sense.
Senator HARRY REID (Democrat, Nevada; Senate Majority Leader): How can you reasonably answer people around the country who are saying fix the system, and then they won't let us fix the system? So we're saying to our Republican colleagues - and I think you've noted the tone here today - we are inviting them to work with us.
WELNA: New Hampshire's Judd Gregg is one of half a dozen Republicans Democrats have been trying to win over. But Gregg's not interested.
Senator JUDD GREGG (Republican, New Hampshire): There's no point in bringing up any legislation until this administration starts acting responsibly on the border and does its job, which is to secure the border. That's the obligation of the president and the executive branch and they aren't doing it.
WELNA: South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham had earlier co-sponsored Schumer's immigration measure, but he's now withdrawn that support, alleging that Democrats are rushing the issue.
Senator LINDSEY GRAHAM (Republican, South Carolina): I think immigration brought up for partisan political purposes is just bad for the issue. I'm not going to be part of that. I'm not playing that game.
WELNA: And House Minority Leader John Boehner declared yesterday there is no chance immigration will move through Congress.
Representative JOHN BOEHNER (Republican, Ohio; House Minority Leader): And it's nothing more than a cynical ploy to try to engage voters, some segment of voters, to show up in this November's elections.
WELNA: Many Republicans suspect Majority Leader Reid is mainly seeking to win over Latinos. They're one out of four of his constituents in Nevada, where he faces a tough re-election.
Reid, for his part, says he's committed to bringing an immigration bill to the Senate floor, but in a nod to the tough odds it faces, he says it would be unwise to set an arbitrary deadline for doing so.
David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.
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