WASHINGTON (AP) - A bipartisan group of leading senators has reached agreement on the principles for a sweeping overhaul of the nation's immigration laws, including a path to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants already in this country.
The deal, to be announced at a news conference Monday, also covers border security, non-citizen or "guest" workers and employer verification of immigration status.
Although thorny details remain to be negotiated and success is far from certain, the development heralds the start of what could be the most significant effort in years toward overhauling the nation's inefficient patchwork of immigration laws.
President Barack Obama also is committed to enacting comprehensive immigration legislation and will travel to Nevada on Tuesday to lay out his vision, which is expected to overlap in important ways with the Senate effort.
"We welcome this. We think this is positive," said White House spokesman Jay Carney. He said the Senate plan mirrors the principles Obama believes must be included in immigration reform, but wouldn't say whether Obama would sign the legislation that ultimately emerges.
Passage of legislation by the full Democratic-controlled Senate is far from assured, but the tallest hurdle could come in the House, which is dominated by conservative Republicans who've shown little interest in immigration reform.
Still, with some Republicans chastened by the November elections which demonstrated the importance of Latino voters and their increasing commitment to Democrats, some in the GOP say this time will be different.
"What's changed, honestly, is that there is a new, I think, appreciation on both sides of the aisle including maybe more importantly on the Republican side of the aisle that we have to enact a comprehensive immigration reform bill," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Sunday on ABC's "This Week."
"I think the time is right," McCain said.
Besides McCain, the senators expected to endorse the new principles Monday are Democrats Charles Schumer of New York, Dick 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.