Half of U.S. Senate's "Gang of 8" tours Arizona/Mexico border - Tucson News Now

Half of U.S. Senate's "Gang of 8" tours Arizona/Mexico border

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

The country could see a comprehensive immigration reform bill introduced next month.

Four of the eight U.S. Senators working to write it toured the border near Nogales Wednesday.

It was a fact-finding tour here along the Arizona/Mexico border. It was to gather information to be used in crafting and getting support for an immigration reform bill.

"In so many ways, and whatever your views are on immigration, Arizona's ground zero. It's the state that perhaps is more affected than any other," said New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer after the tour.

Republican Senator Jeff Flake joined his fellow Arizonan, John McCain, in hosting Schumer and Colorado Democratic Senator Michael Bennet on an aerial and ground tour of the border.

They are members of the so-called Gang of Eight, a bi-partisan group of lawmakers writing a bill on comprehensive immigration reform and trying to meet many needs.

"The need to have secure border, but one that is also open to commerce between Mexico and the U.S.," Senator Flake explained.

The two visiting senators, Schumer and Bennet, had never before seen the Arizona/Mexico border in person.

So it was an eye opener, especially for Schumer who commented on the vastness of the border area.

"You can read and you can study and you can talk, but until you see things it doesn't become reality. And Arizona is probably the state that might be more affected by immigration than any other, and so being here and seeing what's going on is very important," Schumer says.

Schumer says there is a theme here when it comes to the border, and that the senators are united in believing Americans want illegal immigration stopped.

He says once that happens, the senators believe Americans will be open to the rest of immigration reform which includes moving 11 million undocumented immigrants out of the shadows, as he puts it.

"It's been an excellent trip. For me, having a path to citizenship is a vital thing to do, straightening out our future flow of immigration, both on the family and the jobs side is very important to do, and securing the border is very important to do. And we can do all of those together. That's what we aim to do," says Schumer.

Senator McCain says the border tour has helped the visitors better understand the progress already made, and the continuing challenges.

Colorado's Bennet says, "For me, it's a reminder of how comprehensive this work really is and how much care we have to take not to create unintended consequences in the work that we're doing."

McCain has been arguing for more technology on the border.

Schumer says he agrees because the vastness and ruggedness of the land requires more than fences and manpower.

"What I learned today is we have adequate manpower, but not adequate technology," Schumer says.

McCain says with the right resources, several problems can be solved.

"Over a relatively short period of time, with the proper use of technology and with the proper coordination between different agencies, that we will be able to say that we have a degree of border security that would allow people to more forward to a path to citizenship which will not be short path," McCain says.

The senators say passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill will not be easy, but that the border tour will make it easier, especially for the visiting senators, to explain to their colleagues what they believe is needed.

"Not everyone is going to be totally happy with this legislation. No one will be because we are having to make compromises. And that's what makes for good legislation is compromise that brings everybody together," says McCain.

The senators say their group should have immigration reform legislation ready to go in April.

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