Plans to overhaul the troubled U.S immigration system are gathering momentum at the Capitol, news organizations reported Monday.
According to Reuters, Eight U.S. Senators, including Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York and Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, unveiled a bipartisan plan to move ahead with comprehensive reforms.
The new Senate proposal would allow undocumented immigrants to register with the government, Reuters reported. After paying a fine, applicants would receive probationary legal status giving them the right to work and apply for citizenship.
Under this plan, undocumented immigrants would no longer face deportation or scrutiny from law enforcement officials. They would, however, "go to the end of the line" with their applications for full citizenship.
In the past, Republican lawmakers have blocked attempts to open a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S. They have instead favored increased border security.
However, the party's setback in the 2012 election, partially attributed to the party's alienation of Latino voters, has prompted many Republicans to reexamine their stance on the issue. McCain said that future election prospects were a major incentive for the renewed push for reform, CNN reported.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a leading tea party-endorsed Republican, joined McCain in supporting efforts to create a "modern immigration system," according to CNN. The proposal, however, drew criticism from other corners of the party.
Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas condemned the idea of offering illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, Fox News reported. "By granting amnesty, the Senate proposal actually compounds the problem by encouraging more illegal immigration," Lamar said.
On the other end of the political spectrum, Schumer expressed optimism that a "major breakthrough" had been made. He hopes to have legislation passed on the issue by "late spring or summer."
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama greeted the Senate blueprint with enthusiasm, according to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. "This is an important first step," Fox News reported Carney as saying.