Two key US senators are restarting bipartisan talks on US immigration reform that will include a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the country, Senator Charles Schumer said on Sunday.
"And I think we have a darned good chance using this blueprint to get something done this year. The Republican Party has learned that being ... anti-immigrant doesn't work for them politically. And they know it," Schumer said.
President Barack Obama, re-elected last week with overwhelming support from Hispanic voters, in 2010 called the proposal unveiled by Graham and Schumer a "promising framework" on immigration reform. But the plan never got off the ground.
Obama's support among Hispanics was about 66 percent in the election, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling data.
There are an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States, most of them Hispanics.
The Graham and Schumer plan has four components: requiring high-tech, fraud-proof Social Security cards to ensure that illegal workers cannot get jobs; strengthening border security and enforcement of immigration laws; creating a process for admitting temporary workers; and implementing a path to legal status for immigrants already in the country.
Schumer said the plan embraces "a path to citizenship that's fair, which says you have to learn English, you have to go to the back of the line, you've got to have a job, and you can't commit crimes."
Many Republican leaders have taken a hard position against illegal immigrants. Obama's unsuccessful Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, said during the campaign that illegal immigrants should "self-deport" from the country.
Since the election, some influential conservative voices, including television commentator Sean Hannity, have announced support for immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants in the United States with no criminal record.
House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, the top Republican in Congress, said on Friday that the U.S. immigration system is broken, and that Obama had to take the lead. Boehner has said he is confident Republicans could find common ground with the president.
The change would allow illegal immigrants who, among other criteria, are younger than 30 years old and have not been convicted of a felony to apply for work permits.