The Gang of Eight, a group of eight bi-partisan Senators, have decidedto come together and work on a comprehensive plan for immigration reform. This bi-partisan effort is in response to the rising immigrant population in our country. In November 2012, Hispanics and other immigrant groups turned out in huge numbers to the polls. This spike in turnout encouraged Republicans and Democrats to realize that immigration reform is a top priority issue for this particular voting bloc, which both parties are eager to capture.
After much deliberation (there were 200+ amendments to review), the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the Gang of Eight’s immigration bill by a 13-5 vote Tuesday night. The legislation creates more opportunities for 11.5 million immigrants to gain citizenship. It also provides funding for a program that will permit workers to act as “guest workers,” giving them temporary visas at a much higher rate than the government does now.
In an effort to pass the Gang of Eight’s bill, Senate Judiciary Committee leader Patrick Leahy (D-VT) relented to withhold his amendment that would allow gay Americans to sponsor their foreign-born spouses for green cards. Although Leahy’s amendment had support from many of his fellow Democrats, Republican Senators said they would not support the bill if the amendment were included.
The Gang of Eight’s bill will now go to the Senate where it will be voted on. If it passes through the Senate, then the House will vote on it next. This is where things get a little tricky. The House can either vote on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s bill, keeping it exactly as written, or it can vote on a series of smaller bills and then reconcile them with the Senate bill. The latter is more likely given the Republican majority in the House, and that the current bill has more Democratic support than Republican.
Voting on smaller bills would also allow Democrats to vote on expanding the DREAM Act, and Republicans to vote against amendments that create easier pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. While these potential smaller bills are being decided on, the larger enforcement pieces (amendments like keeping our borders enforced) would most likely remain in tact.
All eyes are now on the Senate to see how they vote on the bill. We’ll keep you posted as the legislation moves through Congress.