Yesterday the U.S Senate passed an immigration reform bull 68-32 with all Democrats and 14 Republicans signing on for it. The bill would allow for a path to citizenship for some 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
Supporters and Dreamers were elated in the decision and Vice President Joe Biden even appeared to oversee the vote. Also pleased with the outcome were the drafters of the bill, four Republican and four Democratic senators—John McCain (R-AZ), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Michael Bennet (D-CO)—known as the “Gang of Eight”.
The decision was dedicated in part to Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). Reid stated that Senator Kennedy “…knew the day would come when a group of senators, divided by party, but united by love of country, would see this fight to the finish, so the day is today. And while I am sad that Senator Kennedy isn’t here to see history made, I know he is looking at us proudly and loudly.”
The other ten Republican votes on the bill were Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker (TN), Jeff Chiesa (NJ), Susan Collins (ME), Kelly Ayotte (NH), Orrin Hatch (UT), John Hoeven (ND), Mark Kirk (IL), Dean Heller (NV), and Lisa Murkowski (AK). The “Gang of Eight” were short two votes of the 70 they were looking for, it’s still a very strong showing of support for the bill.
The terms of the bill allows for a lengthy path to citizenship and touches on border security, legal immigration, undocumented immigrants, hiring, visas, and an entry-exit system related to those visas. While full citizenship for undocumented workers would come around thirteen years or more, Dreamers—young undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S as children—and some agricultural workers would get green cards in five years. To please both sides, the green cards won’t be given until the government sees 20,000 more agents on the border, a 700 mile border fence, a system to track when visas expires, and an E-Verify system to stop businesses from hiring undocumented immigrants.
Another more tangible plus to the bill is that it would slice $900 billion off the deficit according to the Congressional Budget Office despite the price of implementing the security measures. Despite the pluses there are many against the bill calling it “amnesty” as it gives legal status before security measures are put in place and that it would add “11 million more Democrats”—in the case of heavily Republican disapproval of the bill. It was this disdain for immigration reform and general indecisiveness on the getting something both sides could agree on—among other things—that cost the Republicans the Latino vote in the 2012 election with President Barack Obama taking over 70% of that demographic. The most vocal against the bill includes Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Ted Cruz and John Comyn (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Chuck Grassley (R-IA). These five and 27 others were the ones who gave the bill the thumbs down.
While the measure passed the Senate, Senator Mike Lee said that it was unlikely that the bill even made it to the House for vote. “If this bill passes today, it will be all but relegated to the ash heap of history, as the House appears willing to tackle immigration reform the right way. The sponsors of this bill had the best of intentions, but in my opinion, intentions aren’t enough.” Immigration Subcommittee Chairman Try Gowdy (R-SC) has expressed no interest in going with the Senate-passed plan as it raises concerns.
Speaker of the House Representative John Boehner (R-OH) said that the House would not be taking up the Senate’s plan and would be running with their own plan and stated that it would need “…the support of a majority of our members (Republicans).” Given how slow and unresponsive the House Republicans have been on doing anything of note it seems unlikely.
“Gang of Eight” member Jeff Flake (R-AZ) said that members of the House would need to prodded to do something or even consider parts of the plan, but said that he’d urge them—especially the members from his state.
President Obama appears pleased that something was achieved from the Senate on the issue, but recognizes that the actual power to move anything lies in the House’s decision. In a statement, he said the Senate “…did its job” and that “It’s now up to the House to do the same. As this process moves forward, I urge everyone who cares about this issue to keep a watchful eye. Now is the time when opponents will try their hardest to pull this bipartisan effort apart so they can stop commonsense reform from becoming a reality. We cannot let that happen.”