The Senate Judiciary committee picked apart a draft of the immigration reform bill and after lengthy negotiations, the bill passed the Senate committee with a solid bipartisan vote.
Despite controversy about the rights of gay spouses, lawmakers sidestepped the issue and decided to vote in favor of sending the bill out of committee. Immigration activists who were waiting to hear about the results chanted “Yes, we can! Si, se puede” outside of the Senate committee room. The new bill not only creates a path way to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., but it creates new programs for low and high skilled workers who would like to stay and work in the country legally. At the same time, the new bill includes costly stipulations that the government must meet in regards to border security and preventing future illegal immigration. President Obama released a statement saying the measure is “largely consistent with the principles of common-sense reform I have proposed and meets the challenge of fixing our broken immigration system.” While the process of implementing the bill into law is not completely over, this is a positive sign leaning towards the eventual approval and passing of the immigration bill into law.
Before the bill was passed in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Leahy took a hard stance on the debate over his proposal to give same-sex and heterosexual spouses equal rights under immigration law. “I don’t want to be the senator who asks people to choose between the love of their life and the love of their country,” he said, adding he wanted to hear from others on the committee. Other lawmakers decided to avoid the issue in order to create a bill that has a chance at passing through the House committee. “I believe in my heart of hearts that what you’re doing is the right and just thing,” said one, Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill. “But I believe this is the wrong moment, that this is the wrong bill.” The panel also agreed on a last minute compromise about covering an increase in the visa program for high tech workers. The number of high skilled workers who will be admitted into the country could rise from 65,000 to 110,000 annually depending on unemployment levels.
Not everyone is happy about the amendments to the bill. Several union groups and civil rights activist groups are complaining the bill is still “anti-worker” and does not have enough specifications. “There have been 300 amendments. Why shouldn’t we have one more?” Despite controversy and the various parties that hold a stake in the immigration overhaul, the committee was able to vote and pass the bill. The next step will be to track the House’s decision and see if other amendments are brought up and the effects this will have on the bill.
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