"To think that 11 million are living among us without documentation. We need to do something," Sen. Dick Durbin, (D) said.
Senator Durbin hosted the meeting with Congressman Luis Gutierrez at his side. The lawmakers are beginning immigration reform negotiations with Republicans in their respective Capitol Hill chambers.
"It's really good to be in Illinois and to know that Illinois, once again, is a driving force in making comprehensive Immigration Reform a reality," Gutierrez said.
While Gutierrez has led the reform charge nationally, Durbin is one of eight U.S. senators who wrote the framework for a proposed law to provide a path to citizenship for those in the country illegally. Durbin said whatever is passed would be the product of compromise with Republicans.
"We have to have a bi-partisan bill. That means the bill we end up with would not be the bill that Luis and I would write," Sen. Durbin said.
Durbin said Democrats must agree to Republican insistence that the border with Mexico be secured, that undocumented immigrants not be allowed to jump ahead of those who've already made legal application, and that non-citizens be ineligible for Obamacare. Another sticking point could be which undocumented immigrants are considered serious criminals and not allowed a path to citizenship.
"The definition of felony is different in different states in different counties across the country," Maria Pesqueira, Latin Women in Action, said.
Gutierrez predicts immigration reform will ignite an economic boom when uncertainty is removed from the lives of 11 million people.
"They buy homes, they buy cars, they buy furniture, they expand their business. The economic engine they will be when we release or eliminate that uncertainty," Gutierrez said.