Comprehensive immigration reform took a major step forward last week after the U.S. Senate passed Senate Bill 744, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.” The U.S. House now takes up immigration reform, but with a Republican majority in the House and many Republicans having expressed opposition to the Senate bill, immigration reform has a long way to go before it becomes law.
The Senate bill calls for the creation of a 13-year path to citizenship for many of the estimated 11 million undocumented workers in the U.S., expansion of the number of visas available for highly skilled workers, and an increase in the number of new H-1B workers each year from 65,000 to 115,000 to potentially 180,000 depending on the economy and demand.
The bill also doubles the number of border patrol agents and requires hundreds of miles of new fencing and development of high-tech devices along the U.S.-Mexico border. It also requires employers to adopt the E-Verify system within 5 years to make sure their employees are legally authorized to work in the U.S.
One positive aspect of the bill’s passage is that it received bipartisan support. In addition to the 52 Democrats voting for the bill, 14 Republicans and 2 Independents voted in favor of it.
President Barack Obama and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano released statements praising the Senate’s passage of the bill and expressing hope that the House would follow its lead. “Today, with a strong bipartisan vote, the United States Senate delivered for the American people, bringing us a critical step closer to fixing our broken immigration system once and for all,” President Obama said. “Today, the Senate did its job. It’s now up to the House to do the same.”
Secretary Napolitano said: “I applaud the U.S. Senate on their bipartisan passage of common sense immigration reform. I am hopeful that the House of Representatives will follow the leadership shown by a strong bipartisan majority of their Senate colleagues…”
The extent to which the House will follow the Senate, however, remains uncertain, and a much tougher fight on immigration reform is expected than in the Senate. Many House members have expressed opposition to various provisions of the Senate Bill, including its comprehensive rather than piecemeal approach to immigration reform, its establishment of a path to citizenship for undocumented workers, and its lack of more significant border protections.
If you would like to know more about Senate Bill 744 or the prospect of comprehensive immigration reform, please contact an attorney at Minsky, McCormick & Hallagan, P.C.