Kudos to the Senate Judiciary Committee! After five long days of markup, the committee voted 13–5 yesterday to advance the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013” (S. 744). With solid bipartisan support, we are now one great big step closer to passing comprehensive immigration reform this year. Passage of this bill is good for American families and will improve U.S. border and economic security.
Three Republicans, Senators Jeff Flake (AZ), Lindsey Graham (SC), and Orrin Hatch (UT), joined with the ten Democrats on the committee to support the bill. S.744 now moves onto the full Senate for consideration. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–NV) has indicated that he will bring the bill up for a vote in June.
Over the course of three weeks, the Senate Judiciary Committee considered more than 200 of the approximately 300 amendments that were filed. Some of these amendments sought to weaken the bill; many more were intended to strengthen it. Ultimately, members of the Committee preserved the core principles of the bill, defeating all of the “poison pill” amendments designed to bring down the legislation and approving many good amendments.
Senators from both sides of the aisle were deeply engaged in the debate and negotiations until the very end. On the last day of markup, Senator Hirono (D–HI) brought up a very narrow amendment that would have been beneficial for some U.S. citizens separated from siblings or adult children. Although the amendment was not offered, it elevated this important issue, and a number of senators spoke in favor of the amendment. Senator Leahy (D–VT) also spoke eloquently about the need to include LGBT families in immigration reform, and even though the amendment was not offered in the committee, many senators spoke in favor of it.
As we have said, the bill is not perfect, but it provides some desperately needed fixes to our broken immigration system. Yesterday’s vote proves that Republicans and Democrats can work together and are committed to immigration reform this year. As Chairman Leahy stated in his closing statement:
“We’re American. We need an immigration system that lives up to American values and helps us write the next great chapter in American history. We can do it. We’ve demonstrated to the U.S. Senate that we can all work together—Republicans and Democrats.”
Chairman Leahy is correct: We can do it. And we owe it to all Americans to get it done.