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Bipartisan group of senators optimistic on immigration reform

| Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, 7:18 p.m.

WASHINGTON — A working group of senators from both parties is nearing agreement on broad principles for overhauling the nation's immigration laws — representing the most substantive bipartisan effort toward comprehensive legislation in years.

The six members have met quietly since the Nov. 6 election, most recently on Wednesday. Congressional aides emphasized there is not yet final agreement, but they target Friday as a date for a possible public announcement.

The talks mark the most in-depth negotiations involving members of both parties since a similar effort broke down in 2010.

“We have basic agreement on many of the core principles,” Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill., a member of the group, said last week. “Now we have to draft it. It takes time.”

“The group we've been meeting with — and it's equal number of Democrats and Republicans — we're real close,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., another member of the group.

In the House, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, is voicing confidence in the prospects for immigration reform, saying that a bipartisan group of lawmakers “basically (has) an agreement” after more than three years of secret talks, The Hill reported on Saturday.

Boehner made the previously unreported comments during a question-and-answer session on Tuesday at the Ripon Society, a Republican advocacy group.

In response to a question from the audience, Boehner said it is “time to deal” with immigration — a top domestic priority for Obama.

“I said it the day after the election. I meant it, and we're going to have to deal with it,” Boehner said.

President Obama will travel to Las Vegas on Tuesday to speak about the need to “fix the broken immigration system this year,” the administration announced.

A rapidly growing number of Hispanic voters in Nevada overwhelmingly supported Obama's re-election.

The president on Friday met with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a member of the group, said Republican attitudes have dramatically shifted since the party's defeat at the polls in Nov. 6. Obama won more than 70 percent of the vote among Latinos and Asians, and a growing number of GOP leaders believe action on immigration is necessary to expand the party's appeal to minority groups.

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