Senate immigration deal is so close, and yet so far

Updated
 
File photo: U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) (2nd L) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) (L) share a moment as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) (R) looks on during a news...
File photo: U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) (2nd L) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) (L) share a moment as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) (R) looks on during a news...
Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Senate’s bipartisan “gang of eight,” which has been hashing out an immigration bill, is close to reaching a deal, according to Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., one of the group’s members.

“I am very, very optimistic that we will have an agreement among the eight of us next week,” Schumer said on Meet the Press Sunday.

Despite Schumer’s optimism, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., another of the group’s members, issued a statement Sunday unequivocally denying that any agreement had been reached. In a letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and chairman of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, Rubio called for extensive hearings on the immigration deal.

“Of particular importance is a full consideration of border security proposals, including testimony from border security experts, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and others,” Rubio wrote in the letter. “A key feature of our bipartisan approach has been an insistence on meeting border security and other enforcement triggers before unauthorized immigrants can apply for permanent residence.”

After Rubio’s comments, Schumer clarified that, while the basics of a deal had been hashed out, legislative language still needed a thorough review.

The tentative accord received an extra push from business and labor Friday as Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, and Tom Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, reached an agreement on a low-wage worker visa program.

“We have created a new model, a modern visa system that includes both a bureau to collect and analyze labor market data, as well as significant worker protections,” Trumka said in a statement Saturday. “We expect that this new program, which benefits not just business, but everyone, will promote long overdue reforms by raising the bar for existing programs.”

According to reports, the visa program would cap low-wage worker immigration at 200,000, provide a pathway to citizenship, allow employees to change jobs, and pay workers standard industry wages or American wages, whichever is higher.

The worker component addresses a key sticking point in the immigration debate—legalizing workers.

“First, people will be legalized,” Schumer said. “Then, we will make sure the border will be secured. And, after that happens, there’s a path to citizenship.”

The “gang of eight” is expected to present the bill after the Congress returns from the Easter/Passover break April 8.

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Senate immigration deal is so close, and yet so far

Updated