Immigration Bill Passes Senate Judiciary Committee; Gay Couples Left Out

Immigration Bill Passes Senate Judiciary Committee; Gay Couples Left Out


Yesterday the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the immigration bill out of its committee by a vote of 13-5 ending the markup session. The bill will now go to the Senate floor. All of the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted for the bill to advance along with the support of Republican Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

The bill remains largely in tact and would provide a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented with if some border security qualifiers are met.

But a few key things happened yesterday in the Senate Judiciary Committee that will impact the debate going forward:

  • More H1B visas (techworkers) will be allowed, and this was criticized by labor as being “anti-American worker.” The tech industry was pushing for this particular amendment by Senator Hatch. 
  • Senator Leahy (D-VT) withdrew an amendment that would have allowed gay and lesbian citizens to petition for their partners that they married in other countries. By withdrawing the amendment, there was no vote in committee on the gay couples issue, but it did leave the bipartisan coalition in tact because Republicans were threatening to not support the bill if it was ultimately included. Gay rights groups were upset.

In early June, the full Senate will start debate on the bill, and President Obama is urging passage. Yesterday in a statement, the President said, “None of the Committee members got everything they wanted, and neither did I, but in the end, we all owe it to the American people to get the best possible result over the finish line.”

Senator Menendez (D-NJ), a gang of eight member, also released a statement upon the bill’s passage from the Senate Judiciary Committee saying, “I applaud my colleagues from the Senate Judiciary Committee, under the leadership of Chairman Patrick Leahy, for holding a successful mark-up of the Gang of 8 immigration reform proposal. After extensive consideration of hundreds of amendments, I am pleased to see that the original foundation of our legislation was not weakened.”

On the amendments, Menendez added, “The wide range of amendments adopted were all made in good faith, and it is clear that there is consensus around the fact that we must fix our broken system once and for all. Our carefully crafted compromise withstood a tough series of poison pill amendments, and its passage out of the Judiciary Committee brings us a step closer to final passage by the senate.” One particular amendment that people took notice of yesterday was Senator Cruz’s amendment to bar a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented, including DREAMers. Cruz’s amendment failed.

Now that the immigration bill is moving along in the Senate, eyes will turn to the House. Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) indicated yesterday that there was no consensus on an immigration bill in the House of Representatives.