Immigration reform: where things stand now

In immigration reform, like all sweeping negotiations, lawmakers are often careful to make sure everyone outside the room understands one very important principle: Nothing is agreed to until everything is.

As House and Senate negotiators approach their self-imposed targets of early April to lay out immigration reform legislation, however, some of immigration reform’s most notorious sticking points appear to be more well-settled than others. Here's a look at where things stand.

1. What’s the status of the negotiations?

Charles Dharapak/AP/File
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D) of Vermont, seen here outside the Senate chamber in 2010, will have a significant impact on how fast any immigration reform bill moves through the Senate.

Bipartisan groups of lawmakers in both the House and Senate are so close to getting to actual bills that fights are starting to spark up about how long Congress should debate the as-yet-unseen measures.

For most immigration reformers, it’s 2013 or bust: Failing to get a bill done before the calendar tips over into a midterm election year would be a death sentence for reform’s hopes, they believe. Some even say that letting the bill linger beyond the August recess would be an ominous sign.

With this in mind, perhaps, the most prominent member of the Senate to openly object to immigration reform, Jeff Sessions (R) of Alabama, is asking for months of time to review whatever legislation a bipartisan “Gang of Eight” senators produces.

Other Republicans, including one on that Gang of Eight, are also calling for deliberation. Sen. Marco Rubio (R) of Florida argued that “in order to succeed, this process cannot be rushed or done in secret,” in a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D) of Vermont.

Democrats are more eager to move quickly. In response to Senator Rubio's letter, Senator Leahy effectively said he expects that any plan will be open to debate and amendments, which take time, but the process will not be allowed to drag.

“I will ... remain mindful of the urgent need for us to actually get to the work of debating and considering amendments without unnecessary delay because this is an issue to which our attention is long overdue. I am hopeful you recognize, as I do, that if we do not act quickly and decisively we will lose the opportunity we now have to fix our immigration system,” he wrote.

Leahy said members should feel comfortable voting on a bill “by this summer” and invited Rubio and the rest of the Gang of Eight to discuss the path forward after Congress reconvenes the week of April 8.

The Senate’s best-laid plans, alas, have a habit of going awry. Democrats had hoped to bring up gun legislation for a vote during their first week back from time in their districts over Easter but will instead see those votes almost certainly delayed a week or longer.

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