"Si se puede." (Yes, we can)
That seemed the message from a quartet of prominent Hispanic lawmakers - Republican and Democrats alike - who expressed confidence that Congress is ready to approve a comprehensive immigration plan -- and soon.
Appearing Sunday morning on Univision's Al Punto show hosted by longtime Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, the four seemed to think there's enough momentum to get some kind of agreement on the contentious issue.
"This is the first time I've been optimistic in my 20 years here," said Sen. Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey, who is among the Gang of Eight senators putting the finishing touches on an immigration bill that could be unveiled as early as Tuesday.
When Ramos asked if this is the year of reform, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, was a little more cautious but also seemed upbeat.
"I can't promise that because it's not only in my hand," he said. "I ask for your prayers. There's a lot of disinformation [about the bill]."
Rubio said the Senate package included strict border security measures and a nationwide verification system for employers to make hit harder to hire undocumented.
He also added that "this plan will not give amnesty to the whole world"
Also appearing on the show were Mario Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican, and Luis Gutierrez, a Chicago Democrat. Both men are working with a small group of legislators in the House to hatch an immigration bill.
Diaz-Balart said the group is just "weeks" away from introducing their plan to overhaul the nation's broken immigration system.
When pressed about the long wait undocumented immigrants would have to wait to become U.S. citizens -- the Senate bill stipulates about 13 years -- Guitierrez stressed that the lengthy wait is missing a much more important issue: the nation's 11 million undocumented would be able to legally remain in the country.
"Eleven million people will not have to live in fear or in terror of being deported," Guitierrez said.
In responding to a question about whether his fellow Republicans -- many of whom remain opposed to any immigration plan that grants legal residency to undocumented immigrants -- Diaz-Balart said that there's no doubt the bill would face strong opposition in the House.
"It won't be easy, but I'm very optimistic precisely because of the work of our small bipartisan group," he said. "I think we have found a solution in the [politicial] center that resolves the problem and has the 218 votes."
On CNN's State of the Union with Candy Crowley, Rubio said he was hopeful his congressional colleagues and the American public agrees with their approach to what he says is a national problem years in the making. The show airs at noon.
- Sergio Bustos (Herald State/Politics Editor)