Democratic senators backing the plan include Schumer, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, and Michael Bennet of Colorado. On the Republican side, McCain and Rubio were joined by Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona.

The eight senators based their framework on four "pillars," described as:

  • A "tough but fair" path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already living in the United States, but only after bolstering the nation's border security;
  • Overhauling the country's legal immigration system, including attaching green cards to advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, or math from U.S. universities;
  • Establishing an employment verification system that holds employers accountable for hiring undocumented workers;
  • Creating a guest worker program for positions that Americans are either unable or unwilling to fill.

A source familiar with how the eight senators came up with the plan told CNN that Graham called Schumer after the November vote to restart work on an immigration bill that broke down in 2010.

Soon, a core group of six senators formed and met five times in the following weeks in the offices of Schumer and McCain, the source said, adding that Flake and Bennet also took part in some of the meetings and were the last to agree to the proposal.

Schumer said Monday that an initial timetable called for delivering the text of a bill to the Senate Judiciary Committee by March, and Senate passage by late spring or in the summer. He and Durbin called Obama on Sunday to tell him of the agreement by the senators, Schumer said, describing the president as "delighted."

Obama came under criticism from Latino activists for failing to deliver on 2008 campaign promise to make immigration reform a priority of his first term.

Last year, as his re-election campaign heated up, the Obama administration announced a halt to deportations of some young undocumented immigrants in a move that delighted the Latino community.

Exit polls in November indicated Latino voters gave overwhelming support to Obama over GOP challenger Mitt Romney, who had advocated a policy that amounted to forcing undocumented immigrants to deport themselves.