Immigration bill passes Senate Judiciary Committee
HERB BOYD Special to the AmNew | 6/20/2013, 11:21 a.m.
Last week in a vote of 13-5, the Senate Judiciary Committee opened the door for millions of undocumented immigrants to obtain citizenship. Now comes the showdown on the Senate floor.
Witnesses at the proceedings were ecstatic upon hearing the vote. "Si, se puede! Yes, we can!" they shouted, and President Barack Obama must have been pleased to hear that familiar chant.
There are 11.5 million immigrants who are overjoyed to learn that legislation is now pending that will provide them a pathway out of the shadows. With the proposed measure, a new program for low-skilled workers and highly trained ones to enter the country at greater levels than currently exist is now in the making. The plan also provides the government with a fresh approach, though not without a price, to intercept any further illegal immigration.
"I congratulate the Senate Judiciary Committee on completing its work on S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act," Obama said in a press statement. "Thanks to the leadership of Chairman [Patrick] Leahy and a bipartisan group of eight Senators, the legislation that passed the Judiciary Committee with a strong bipartisan vote is largely consistent with the principles of common sense reform I have proposed and meets the challenge of fixing our broken immigration system."
Even as he praised the senators, he was keenly aware that it wasn't a perfect bill. "None of the committee members got everything they wanted, and neither did I," he said, "but in the end, we all owe it to the American people to get the best possible result over the finish line. I encourage the full Senate to bring this bipartisan bill to the floor at the earliest possible opportunity and remain hopeful that the amendment process will lead to further improvements."
Sometime in June, following the Senate recess, the bill is expected to hit the floor, and already, several GOP stalwarts said the bill, as designed, will never make it through the House.
"If the Senate passes a bill ... that would reflect a pretty broad, bipartisan support of that bill," Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the second-ranking House Democrat, told reporters, "and I would think that that would be a good basis for our discussion here."
Acquiring a path to citizenship brings a number of obstacles for immigrants, and none more problematic than getting health insurance. Without proper coverage, many of them may be faced with deportation, while Obamacare is still an issue that most Americans are waiting to experience the full effects of, which should occur next year.
Immigration authority Angela Kelley of the liberal Center for American Progress said that the bipartisan agreement reached in the Senate Judiciary Committee "matters a lot" for the bill's prospects before the full Senate. "In some ways, the lack of drama is really different from when [immigration legislation] was marked up in committee in 2006 and in 2007, when so much of that negotiation was happening behind closed doors. It left just such a bad taste in people's mouths that [the bill] didn't have the juice it needed to get off the floor," she said.