Gang Of Eight Immigration Bill Being Crafted, But Senators Remain Quiet
By ERICA WERNER, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON -- The eight senators meet in private several times a week, alternating between Sen. John McCain's and Sen. Charles Schumer's offices. They sit in arm chairs arranged in a circle and sip water or soft drinks as they debate temporary workers and border security. In a capital riven by partisanship and gridlock, they are determined to be the exception and actually get something done.
This is immigration reform's "Gang of Eight." With them lies the best hope in years for overhauling the nation's byzantine immigration laws - and they know it. That's partly why they are, by all accounts, working amazingly well together as a self-imposed deadline approaches for their sweeping legislation to be released. The progress is happening even though the group includes some of the Senate's most outsized personalities, failed and prospective presidential candidates, one lawmaker dogged by scandal and another facing a potential re-election challenge that could be complicated by his stance on immigration.
"I tell you what, this is one of the best experiences I've had. Everybody's serious, everybody's knowledgeable, they've been around the issue," said Sen. Lindsey Graham-R-S.C., who's up for re-election next year and facing a potential GOP primary challenge from the right. He said it's "sort of what I came up here to do - sit down with serious people to solve serious and hard problems."
In addition to McCain, R-Ariz., Schumer, D-N.Y., and Graham, the gang includes Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a potential 2016 presidential candidate; Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.; Michael Bennet, D-Colo.; and Robert Menendez, D-N.J., who's battling allegations related to prostitution and his ties to one of his donors.
They meet for an hour or an hour-and-a-half at a time on days when the Senate is in session. No reporters stake out these meetings and aides stand or sit in the background, behind their bosses. They're assiduous about avoiding leaks and tight-lipped on the details of how their talks are going.
"I'm guardedly optimistic," McCain almost invariably says when asked.
What Is a Gang? Definitions
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There is no universally agreed-upon definition of "gang" in the United States. Gang, youth gang and street gang are terms widely and often interchangeably used in mainstream coverage. Reference to gangs often implies youth gangs. In some cases, youth gangs are distinguished from other types of gangs; how youth is defined may vary as well.
Motorcycle gangs, prison gangs, hate groups, adult organized crime groups, terrorist organizations and other types of security threat groups are frequently but not always treated separately from gangs in both practice and research.
Federal definition. The federal definition of gang as used by the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), is :
- An association of three or more individuals;
- Whose members collectively identify themselves by adopting a group identity, which they use to create an atmosphere of fear or intimidation, frequently by employing one or more of the following: a common name, slogan, identifying sign, symbol, tattoo or other physical marking, style or color of clothing, hairstyle, hand sign or graffiti;
- Whose purpose in part is to engage in criminal activity and which uses violence or intimidation to further its criminal objectives.
- Whose members engage in criminal activity or acts of juvenile delinquency that if committed by an adult would be crimes with the intent to enhance or preserve the association's power, reputation or economic resources.
- The association may also possess some of the following characteristics:
- The members may employ rules for joining and operating within the association.
- The members may meet on a recurring basis.
- The association may provide physical protection of its members from others.
- The association may seek to exercise control over a particular geographic location or region, or it may simply defend its perceived interests against rivals.
- The association may have an identifiable structure.
Both the Department of Justice and ICE have distinct definitions for transnational organized crime and gangs. The federal definition of gangs excludes drug trafficking organizations, terrorist organizations, traditional organized crime groups, such as La Cosa Nostra, and groups that fall within the Department of Justice's definition of transnational organized crime.