WASHINGTON, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- A bipartisan group of eight U.S. senators offered a proposal to revamp the country's immigration laws Monday, saying the time is here to begin fixing the system
"We have a long way to go, but this bipartisan blueprint is a major breakthrough," Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said, adding he thought the chamber could pass the bill by late spring or summer.
"The key to our compromise is to recognize that Americans overwhelming oppose illegal immigration, and support legal immigration," Schumer said. "To this end, our framework contains four basic pillars. First we create a tough, but fair path to citizenship for illegal immigrants currently living in the United States that is contingent upon securing our borders. Second, we reform our legal immigration system to better recognize the importance of characteristics that will help build the American economy and strengthen American families."
"Third, we create an effective employment verification system that will prevent identity theft and end the hiring of future unauthorized workers," he said. "And lastly, we establish an improved process for admitting future workers to serve our nation's workforce needs, while simultaneously protecting all workers."
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said no one benefits by having undocumented workers "here hidden in the shadows. Let's create a system to bring them forward, allow them to settle their debt to society and fulfill the necessary requirements to become law-abiding citizens of this country. This is consistent with our country's tradition of being a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants."
The other senators who worked the proposal were Democrats Richard Durbin of Illinois, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado, and Republicans Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Marco Rubio of Florida and Jeff Flake of Arizona.
While applauding work by the bipartisan group, White House spokesman Jay Carney called the effort "the beginning of a process," noting legislation hadn't been introduced.
"This is the beginning of a process, at least in terms of legislation that needs to be crafted and voted on and hopefully signed by the president," Carney said. "He is encouraged by the progress we've seen from both parties in the Senate and looks forward to working with members of both parties."
A spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, told The Washington Post the speaker "welcomes" the senators' work but would to review the document.
Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, a longtime opponent of granting legal status to illegal immigrants, disparaged the Senate framework.
"When you legalize those who are in the country illegally, it costs taxpayers millions of dollars, costs American workers thousands of jobs and encourages more illegal immigration," Smith said. "By granting amnesty, the Senate proposal actually compounds the problem by encouraging more illegal immigration."
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the key business lobby, said it supports the senators' work, the Post said.
"We know that many details will need to be worked out, but we are very encouraged by this framework for reform," Chamber President and Chief Executive Officer Thomas Donohue said.
A coalition of immigration advocates Monday announced plans to rally in support of comprehensive reform April 10 in Washington.