As several of the senators taking part in a bipartisan effort to overhaul to the nationâs immigration laws appeared on the Sunday talk shows to sound an optimistic note, Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida and a member of the group, offered a strongly worded note of caution: âNo agreement on immigration legislation yet,â read a headline, in all capital letters, of a statement released by his office on Sunday.
âIâm encouraged by reports of an agreement between business groups and unions on the issue of guest workers,â Mr. Rubio said in the statement. âHowever, reports that the bipartisan group of eight senators have agreed on a legislative proposal are premature.â
Mr. Rubio was referring to news reports on Saturday saying that the nationâs leading business and labor groups had reached an agreement on a guest worker program for low-skilled workers â” an issue that had been among the final sticking points in the overall immigration negotiations among the group of eight senators.
âWe have made substantial progress, and I believe we will be able to agree on a legislative proposal that modernizes our legal immigration system, improves border security and enforcement and allows those here illegally to earn the chance to one day apply for permanent residency contingent upon certain triggers being met,â Mr. Rubio said. âHowever, that legislation will only be a starting point.â
On Saturday, as news of the deal between business and labor broke, Mr. Rubio sounded a similar refrain of caution, sending a letter to Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, warning Mr. Leahy not to take up immigration reform with âexcessive haste.â
Mr. Rubio, one of four Republicans in the group, was elected in 2010 as part of a Tea Party wave, and seems determined to emerge from any immigration bargain with his conservative credentials intact; at the outset, he went on something of a one-man media tour, trying to sell the broad principles behind an immigration overhaul to conservative hosts on television and radio. Recently he has been saying that he believes an immigration bill needs to be the result of a deeply deliberate process.
Speaking on the CNN program âState of the Unionâ on Sunday, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a member of the group, said that while the eight senators still needed to sign off on the language of an immigration bill, they had largely reached an agreement in principle and he was confident that a bill would be introduced imminently.
âI think weâve got a deal,â Mr. Graham said. âWeâve got to write the legislation.â
Mr. Graham added: âIt will be rolled out next week.â
Mr. Rubioâs statement, meanwhile, called for a healthy debate if and when the group does introduce an immigration bill.
âWe will need a healthy public debate that includes committee hearings and the opportunity for other senators to improve our legislation with their own amendments,â he said. âEight senators from seven states have worked on this bill to serve as a starting point for discussion about fixing our broken immigration system. But arriving at a final product will require it to be properly submitted for the American peopleâs consideration, through the other 92 senators from 43 states that werenât part of this initial drafting process. In order to succeed, this process cannot be rushed or done in secret.â