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Border security definition remins key in senators' immigration plan

| Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, 6:56 p.m.

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of senators working to craft immigration legislation is focusing on how to define when the border is secure, one of several contentious issues that could cause the whole deal to collapse, a key Senate negotiator said on Thursday.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., pointed to “serious challenges ahead” as the lawmakers delve into the nitty gritty of border security, how to define a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, and other issues such as a guest worker program — something business wants and organized labor has concerns about.

“Make no mistake about it, these are difficult and thorny issues, and all three of us have seen any one of these issues bring previous immigration bills down,” Schumer said at a news conference with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

Schumer, Durbin and the other six senators who proposed an immigration bill blueprint this week want assurances on border security before a path to citizenship can begin. President Obama does not endorse such a linkage in his own immigration proposal, and the White House argues that the border is more secure now than it ever has been. But Republicans in the Senate group, including John McCain of Arizona and Marco Rubio of Florida, say they can't support an immigration bill that doesn't make a pathway to citizenship conditional on a secure border.

What constitutes a secure border remains to be determined.

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