Two Senate immigration reformers outline benefits to US ... and the GOP

Sens. Jeff Flake (R) and Michael Bennet (D), who helped craft bipartisan legislation now before the Senate, predict economic and political benefits if Congress enacts immigration reform.

Michael Bonfigli /The Christian Science Monitor
Senators Michael Bennet (D) of Colorado and Jeff Flake (R) of Arizona (l.) speak at the Monitor Breakfast for reporters in Washington, D.C., June 12.

Sens. Jeff Flake (R) of Arizona and Michael Bennet (D) of Colorado are members of the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" pushing immigration reform in the Senate. They were guests at the June 12 Monitor Breakfast.

President Obama's role:

FLAKE: "He has played the right role so far – the outside cheerleader.... As a Republican, it would be more difficult were he out front."

Economic effects of immigration reform:

BENNET: "The effect on our economy if we are actually inviting ... talented people from around the world to make their contribution to our economy here is going to be enormous. So not solving this ... is a horrible outcome for the country."

Impact on the Republican Party if immigration reform fails:

FLAKE: "This issue makes it very difficult for Republicans to compete nationwide and state by state.... Going forward it behooves us as Republicans to solve this issue."

Effects of passing immigration reform on prospects for crafting a budget deal:

BENNET: "If we can ... pass this immigration bill in a bipartisan way in the Senate, get it through the House, and get it to the president's desk ... [it will] be evidence that the ... United States Congress is not in fact broken and that it can make some hard decisions ... with respect to our debt and our deficit."

Sen. Patrick Leahy's amendment to let gay citizens petition for their foreign spouses to become permanent residents:

FLAKE: "This is a heavy lift, this immigration bill.... I think we wisely put that issue aside."

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