The Immigration Reform Bill proposing a path to US citizenship for around 11 million undocumented immigrants was passed on Tuesday by the Judiciary committee comprising 18 members. The bill was passed 13 to 5, with the 10 Democrats being supported by 3 Republicans.
The comprehensive immigration reform bill that was introduced in the Senate was over 800 pages long and was worked on over a few months by a bipartisan group of Senators, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). The Judiciary committee’s vote in favor of the bill signals a victory for the bipartisan group, more popularly referred to as the Gang of Eight.
The bill includes provisions for increasing the number of work visas, new visa categories for skilled and unskilled workers and funds for tightening the border security along the southern borders with Mexico. The bill saw an amendment to provide security for same-sex couples being withdrawn.
Four of the Gang of Eight Senators were also on the Judiciary committee, and they joined forces to make sure that the bill would be passed, though it included them axing the amendment favoring same-sex couples. Senator Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) , who introduced this amendment, withdrew it, though with “a heavy heart”. Two other Senators – Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) did not support the amendment though they wanted to because they did not want to loose the support of Republican Senators on the Gang of Eight, including Senator Rubio.
Likewise, compromises were made regarding visas for high-skilled employees and restrictions that applied to certain categories. The number of work visas will be increased. There will be a change in the requirement of offering the job to US citizens or permanent residents, before it is offered to foreigners.
A notable change that the bill proposes is the elimination of the Diversity Visa Lottery. The lottery, which was started in 1995, gave an opportunity for people from under-represented countries to win a green card. This meant that anyone from eligible countries with the American dream could try their luck at the lottery. Now, if the bill is passed, the lottery will be scratched. Which means, the 55,000 visas made available through this program will be diverted to work visa categories, especially those that allow for STEM graduates to get employment in the United States.
The immigration reform bill will now be presented to the full Senate and is most likely to come up for a floor vote. Giving for time to discuss and finalize the cost of the bill, the debate on the bill is likely to happen in the second week of June.