A bipartisan agreement on an immigration reform plan has been reached, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."
Graham is a member of the bipartisan "gang of eight" tackling immigration reform , which hit roadblocks last week over the issue of worker visas. But Graham sounded a more optimistic note Sunday, telling CNN's Candy Crowley, "I think we've got a deal."
"We've got to write the legislation, but 2013, I hope, will be the year that we pass bipartisan immigration reform," he said.
Graham said the bill would have three goals: to prevent a "third wave" of undocumented immigrants moving into the United States, to allow employers who can't find American workers at competitive wages to hire guest workers and to weigh immigration decisions largely on merit rather than family relations.
Undocumented immigrants "will have a path to citizenship, but it will be earned, it will be long, and I think it will be fair," he said.
Graham said while a bill is yet to be drafted, there is broad agreement on its outlines, and he believed the resulting legislation would make it through the House.
“It’s got to be written up ... But conceptually, we have an agreement between business and labor, between ourselves," Graham said.
Another gang-of-eight member, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), also said Sunday on "Meet the Press" that a deal was close at hand.
"With the agreement between business and labor, every major policy issue has been resolved on the gang of eight," Schumer said, calling the business and labor disagreement a major obstacle that has been overcome. "Now everyone, we've all agreed that we're not going to come to a final agreement until we see draft legislative language and we all agree on that. We've drafted some of it already, the rest will be drafted this week. So I'm very optimistic that we will have an agreement among the eight of us next week."
But not all parties involved sounded so certain.
In a statement also released Sunday, another member of the group, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), said no deal had yet been reached. “Reports that the bipartisan group of eight senators have agreed on a legislative proposal are premature,” the statement reads. And on "Meet the Press," Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) warned that "it doesn't mean we've ... crossed every T or dotted every I, but we're closer, certainly."
The AFL-CIO, which struck an agreement Friday with Schumer and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, also took issue with Graham's push for a merit-based system. "It is disappointing that on Easter Sunday, Lindsey Graham would suggest that he would stop re-uniting families and instead seek to further [privatize] the immigration system," AFL-CIO spokesman Jeff Hauser said in an email to The Huffington Post. "Supposedly pro-family values Republicans should understand that 'merit' is not something determined by the highest bidder in a country built on family and defined by its commitment to equality."
Responding specifically to Rubio's comments, Schumer called the difference "semantics," saying he said he'd spoken to Rubio Saturday, and didn't think he would walk away from the deal.
"There'll be little kerfuffles," he said, "but I don't think any of us expect there to be problems."