After having considered 301 amendments during five days of deliberation, the Senate Judiciary Committee finally approved with minor modifications the immigration reform bill originally put together by a bipartisan group of Senators, the “gang of eight”, setting up its debate in the floor for early June.
Thirteen senators voted in favor of S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, while only five voted against it. The Republicans that voted in favor included Jeff Flake of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Orrin Hatch of Utah.
The vote came after the committee reached a deal not to present an amendment that would have allowed U.S. citizens to apply for permanent resident status on behalf of their same-sex partners, which many experts believed would have killed the bill in the floor.
Previously, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) had also struck a deal with Mr. Hatch to gain his support for the bill that raises the minimum number of visas for high skilled workers from 110,000 to 115,000, and relaxes the requirements to bring in high skilled foreign workers to the U.S. Mr. Hatch’s support is considered crucial because he has the capacity to persuade other conservative members of Congress to back the bill as well.
S.744 will still confront major challenges in the floor, starting from the fact that Mr. Hatch himself has said that though he voted the bill out of the committee because of the deal he reached with the Democrats, his final vote in the floor was not guaranteed.
Yet, many experts still believe that the bill will be able to make it in the Senate with at least 60 votes, enough to avoid a Republican filibuster, and that the real challenge will be to pass this bill or a similar one in the House.
However, the fact that it came out of the Judiciary Committee with a strong bipartisan support, and that it was able to overpassed almost intact major challenges coming from GOP senators who wanted to undermine its provisions to grant access to citizenship to the undocumented, suggest that it has higher chances than originally expected of ever becoming law.
A very clear thing that emerged during the debates in the Judiciary Committee markup debates is that it is becoming more and more difficult for antiimmigrant legislators, and its allies to question the rationale for an immigration reform that grants a legal status and access to citizenship to the undocumented. Their arguments sound less and less in line with what this country needs in order to become more competitive in the world economy in years to come: a population that has real opportunities to getting out of their out underclass status to reach their full potential as individuals and citizens. It is unclear how maintaining a large number of people in a permanent underclass status, as some Republican legislators suggested, will serve this country well especially considering that many of them are the parents of the future generation of Americans. MATT celebrates the decision of the Judiciary Committee to approve the bill as a major landmark and expects its prompt approval in the Senate floor as well so that it can gain a strong momentum when this legislation or similar legislation reaches the House floor.