This is a great victory and a historical moment for Immigration advocates. After approximately six months of deliberation, on Thursday evening, the Senate has finally passed S.744 Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill with a bipartisan vote of 68-32. The vote was just short of the 70 votes the Gang of Eight was hoping for to pressure the House of Representatives to take up this bill. The bill passed easily in the Senate as many test votes in the last month showed that it had enough support from Senators of both parties to pass.
Some of the major components of the bill include:
- Increased border security along the U.S.-Mexican border in the form of doubling the number of border agents, increased fencing, and a technology upgrade
- 13-year path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the U.S.
- Increase visas for highly educated immigrants
- New visa program for low skilled workers
- Start-up visas for entrepreneurs to start businesses and create jobs in the U.S.
- Stricter enforcement for employers to verify potential employees’ legal status
- Better E-verify system
Opponents of the bill complain that bringing in and legalizing more immigrants would cause wages to fall and unemployment to rise in the U.S. In fact, the bill would bring economic benefits to many industries, including new businesses, technology, agriculture, labor and services, by bringing in more workers, customers, and entrepreneurs. It would also decrease future illegal immigration.
The bill is now in the hands of the House of Representatives. Passing the bill in the House will be a much tougher hurdle to overcome. The GOP is divided over providing a path to citizenship to illegal immigrants, and some House Republicans are threatening to kill any bill that includes one. Additionally, some Republicans complain that the border security in the Senate bill is insufficient and that the bill is not tough enough on immigrants who broke U.S. law by entering illegally. Others are concerned about passing one sweeping overhaul of immigration laws, and would prefer a piecemeal approach to immigration reform.
House lawmakers are currently working on their own version of immigration reform. In the past week, the House Judiciary Committee has voted on a few proposals, including making it a federal crime to be in US illegally and similar visa programs for skilled workers as presented in the Senate bill.
President Obama stated, “Today, the Senate did its job. It's now up to the House to do the same.” The President also urged Americans to contact their House Representatives and insist that they “do the right thing.” Indeed, nobody is going to get everything they want out of immigration reform, but it is time for our politicians to fix the system. This week has been a very positive step for Immigration and we wish the House the best of luck in passing the reform for the sake of bettering the nation.
Can the House get it done? Or is the bill dead on arrival? Tell us your opinions in the comments below!