By a 68-32 vote the U.S. Senate approved a comprehensive immigration reform bill that aims to strengthen border security while also potentially benefiting scores of undocumented migrants.
“Yes we can!” chanted several of the dozens of pro-immigration activists in the gallery of the Senate after Vice President Joe Biden read the results of the vote.
"It's landmark legislation that will secure our borders and help 11 million people get right with the law," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said shortly prior to the vote taking place.
Among the provisions in S.744, which was crafted via the “Gang of Eight” bipartisan group of Senators, is a thirteen-year “pathway to citizenship” of strict conditions for certain undocumented migrants to legalize their status. Other parts of the proposal would require businesses to check on the legal status of prospective employees, establish a temporary program for farm workers and diminish family relations as a factor within the legal immigration system.
The bill included provisions to strengthen border security, but yesterday the Senate backed adding $46 billion in funding to the plan for the hiring of 20,000 Border Patrol agents and completing a 700-mile barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Despite passing a major hurdle in the Senate, the proposal will likely face greater scrutiny in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
“The House is not going to take up and vote on whatever the Senate passes. We're going to do our own bill -- through regular order -- and move the legislation that reflects the will of our majority and the will of the American people,” said House Speaker John Boehner prior to the Senate’s vote.
Among the few GOP senators who voted for the proposal was “Gang of Eight” member Marco Rubio who earlier today spoke about his family when they first came to the U.S. from Cuba:
"My father had someone phonetically write on a small piece of paper the words 'I am looking for work,'" Rubio said. "He memorized those words. They were literally some of the first words he learned to speak in English." When immigrants come here, Rubio said, they start acting more like us. "It reminds us that sometimes, we focus so much on how immigrants could change America, that we forget that America changes immigrants even more."“I think people are tuned in to what’s happening in the vote…and are saying ‘Here’s my chance to finally, ultimately become part of America',” said Sen. Robert Menendez, a Cuban-American legislator who is also in the “Gang of Eight”.
The plan not only received bipartisan backing in the Senate but also among disparate special interest groups. Months ago, the heads of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the A.F.L.-C.I.O. agreed to support the plan since it provides “a unique and historic opportunity for American workers and businesses to work together to fix this aspect of the badly broken system”.
Video Source– YouTube via users SenatorMenendezNJ, Yellow Hammer and Associated Press
Online Sources – USA TODAY; Thomas.gov; CNN; The Atlantic Wire; NPR; A.F.L.-C.I.O.; Reuters