POSTED: Friday, April 19, 2013 - 7:00am
UPDATED: Friday, April 19, 2013 - 7:03am
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — The debate over immigration reform picks up steam today.
The Senate Judiciary Committee starts picking apart that plan from the so-called "Gang of Eight".
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will testify before the committee.
She's in charge of the border.
The bill would add 3,500 new customs agents and $17 billion to border security.
It would also give the 11 million undocumented immigrants already here a path to citizenship.
The Gang of Eight's plan would let them stay, pay a fine and apply for federal benefits after 10 years if they have no felonies or back taxes.
Opposition has been vocal.
"This bill is amnesty before enforcement," Alabama's Senator Jeff Sessions complained.
"We will not accept amnesty," added Sam Paige of the National Sheriff's Association.
Law enforcement groups say it won't work, and conservatives argue it will strip jobs from Americans and drive down wages.
On the other side is an unlikely coalition of business, labor, liberals and more moderate conservatives.
"This bill is proof the art of political compromise is not dead," said New York's Senator Chuck Schumer.
"I'm going to fight for this bill," vowed Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. "If you have a better idea, bring it on."
Political reality is also a driving force for Republicans.
In November's election 70 percent of Hispanics voted Democratic.
"Republicans have got to compete, I say compete, for the Hispanic voter," noted Arizona Senator John McCain.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio's office has started a "myth-busting" web page and he's going on conservative talk radio to take on the opposition.