Washington – Despite a warning by Vice President Joe Biden, a group of immigrant students known as Dreamers chanted, “Yes we can,” as the Senate approved a sweeping immigration bill Thursday.
The 68-32 vote was bipartisan. But challenges loom in the House for comprehensive reform that would provide a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.
As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., helped shape the bill. “I hope my colleagues in the House give this bill the respect that it deserves by maintaining or improving upon its strengths,” he said, adding, “This bill is not perfect, but we cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
He was able to include into the bill a ban on immigration raids on sanctuary areas like churches and schools and measures that would combat human trafficking and abuses of immigrant detainees.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who, like Blumenthal, championed the bill, said, “Our current immigration system hurts businesses across Connecticut, hinders law enforcement and tears families apart.”
“Immigration reform used to be untouchable in Congress. But today, we can celebrate how far we’ve come…,” Murphy said.
Besides providing legal status and a 13-year path to citizenship for millions of unauthorized immigrants in the United States, the Senate bill would implement tough border security provisions that must be in place before any immigrants could gain legal status.
It’s been 20 years since Congress approved a major immigration bill, which was not lost on the White House as Biden presided over the vote. Happy “Dreamers” — immigrant youth brought to this country by their parents without documentation — witnessed the action in the Senate gallery.
But the mood was much more somber in the House, where advocates of reform worry that the GOP-controlled chamber would kill an opportunity for change.
Several tough enforcement–only bills sponsored by Republicans will be voted on in the House. But approval of those bills will mean little since they will be ignored by the Senate.
Then more comprehensive legislation crafted by a bipartisan group of House members might have a chance, said Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz.
A comprehensive bill could be approved in the House with a majority of Democratic votes and a minority of Republican votes.
But House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, insists that any immigration measure to hit the House floor will have to be supported by a majority of Republicans.
That’s very unlikely.
Grijalva said he hoped Boehner will back down on his requirement, as he did when the House considered a “fiscal cliff” deal and a Hurricane Sandy aid bill.
“This ‘majority of majority members’ thing needs to be tested,” Grijalva said.