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Top senators brief Obama on immigration plan amid muted rollout

With Monday’s Boston Marathon bombings dominating the nation’s attention, reaction to a new comprehensive immigration reform bill was muted in Washington as activists quietly reviewed the legislation and proponents worked to publicize it without the planned fanfare of a morning press conference.

Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Chuck Schumer of New York – both members of the bill’s drafting group – briefed President Barack Obama on the bill at the White House this afternoon.

Conceding that some details of the bill - including security "triggers" - weren't fully in line with the president's preferences, Schumer said Obama was "very supportive" of the effort as a whole.

"While he certainly might not agree with every single part of it, he was very supportive of the bill we have put together and simply wants to make sure we move it along and get something done," he said.

In a statement, Obama said the bill is "clearly a compromise, and no one will get everything they wanted, including me."

"But," he added, "it is largely consistent with the principles that I have repeatedly laid out for comprehensive reform." 

The legislation includes ambitious goals for border security and a sharp shift towards more employment-based visas for legal immigrants. It includes provisions for qualified undocumented workers to be eligible to pay fines and back taxes in order to apply for a probationary legal status which can be adjusted to legal permanent residency and ultimately citizenship if certain particulars are met.

But this “path to citizenship” is contingent on several “triggers,” including border surveillance, operational apprehension strategies, cleared backlogs, and the implementation of E-Verify work eligibility systems.

Those "triggers" have been viewed warily by the White House, which has worried that such measures are unnecessary and could jeopardize or delay a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

"We think it is very important," Schumer said Tuesday of the Gang of Eight's border security plan. "First, we think it is the right thing to do, and second, we think you are not going to pass a bill in the Senate, the House or with the approval of the American people if they're not pretty much assured that there isn't going to be another wave of illegal immigration." 

With the postponement of Tuesday’s planned rollout press conference, outside groups have been fairly reserved in responding to the immigration proposals, putting planned events on hold as the country continues to grapple with the Boston Marathon tragedy.

Speaking briefly at what is typically a weekly question-and-answer session, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell took no questions from reporters -- citing deference to the Boston victims -- and said only that the GOP conference was briefed yesterday on the immigration legislation.

"Hopefully it will provide a bipartisan way forward on a very important issue to the country," he added. 

But some of the bill’s critics have begun to speak up.

In an interview with the National Review, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, suggested that speculation about a possible suspect in the bombings should prompt caution on immigration reform.

“Some of the speculation that has come out is that yes, it was a foreign national and, speculating here, that it was potentially a person on a student visa,” King said. “If that’s the case, then we need to take a look at the big picture.”

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