The Senate Judiciary Committee continued the markup process of the immigration reform bill Monday, considering among other things domestic violence victims, financial aid for DREAMers, whether the Boston bombing held any weight over student visa provisions, biometric security at airports, and whether to add more high tech visas to the bill.
Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono, a Democrat, proposed a measure that would provide DREAMers “granted registered provisional immigrant or blue card status” federal financial aid assistance. Also when it came to students, Republican senators took aim at student visas in the name of the Boston bombing and a more complete investigation; it was ultimately not approved.
In particular Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who co-sponsored the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, was perturbed, and his spokesman issued a statement:
“Congress should be provided with a thorough investigation of the bombing before we make any changes to our asylum provisions or our student visa system because the lessons we will learn from an investigation will allow us to identify and correct the flaws in the current system that exposed us to this attack.”
Vermont’s Patrick Leahy vehemently argued against “Grassley43,” in which anyone determined to be a member of a “street gang” could be denied status. The measure failed, Leahy’s criticism was that the measure created a “guilt by association” that could deny eligible people status based on the “inference” that they were part of a gang.
Leahy also proposed allowing immigrants who are the victims of domestic violence and/or human trafficking to work in the U.S. while their applications for legal status are being processed. The measure was approved.
Perhaps one of the amendments that will affect the most people is the biometric identification system that senators voted to implement at the 30 most popular U.S. airports, such as Los Angeles, LaGuardia in New York, DC area airports, O’Hare in Chicago, amongst others.
This amendment, by Utah’s Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, would require the biometric system documenting fingerprints of non-U.S. citizens to be in place in 10 airports within two years. After six years the system will expand to 30 airports; detractors said the proposal could cost as much as $25 billion.
Hatch’s more controversial actions Monday revolved around his insistence on increasing the number of high skilled tech and science visas, H-1B, in the bill. Critics of this type of legislation claim that the addition of these visas will displace American workers in favor of lower cost immigrants.
The Committee unanimously approved an amendment from South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham in that vein that terminates asylum of an immigrant if they return to their home country without “good cause.” He also proposed to change one of his prior amendments requiring the Department of Homeland Security to report information about people who overstay their visas to federal law enforcement agencies; the Committee approved this change as well.