The United States Senate today passed a sweeping bill to fix our broken immigration system with a broad bipartisan vote of 68-32.
The bill, introduced by Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and the "Group of 8,' makes important reforms to an outdated visa system that protects American workers, provides significantly more tools and resources to secure the border, establishes a sensible system for the future flow of immigration and creates a tough but fair path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
In addition to Bennet, the "Group of 8' is comprised of Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), John McCain (R-AZ), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Jeff Flake (R-AZ).
"This bill reaffirms two bedrock American values -- we are a nation that respects the rule of law and we are a nation of immigrants," Bennet said. "We've passed a bipartisan bill that has support from a wide array of businesses and workers. It will strengthen our economy, reduce the deficit, and secure our borders. It will provide relief for businesses and protect workers. And it will reunite families and provide a path to citizenship for millions of people who come to this country for a better life but are living in the shadows of our society. I'd like thank everyone in Colorado who helped us write this bill and who informed and educated me on the challenges and pressures they face every day because our immigration system is broken."
The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 includes a path to citizenship for the 11 million people living in the country without documentation. Undocumented immigrants will pay fees, taxes and learn English. The path to citizenship becomes available once certain border security triggers are met.
The bill also increases the number of visas available for workers specializing in high tech industries and eliminates the unworkable H2A system for agriculture workers, replacing it with a new streamlined system. It creates a guest worker program agreed to by labor and business for lesser-skilled workers to come into the country to meet labor demands in industries such as tourism and hospitality. It also makes significant investments to improve border security and the future flow of immigrants.
The "Group of 8' worked with a diverse group of stakeholders to craft a bill, which was introduced in April. The bill underwent an extensive consideration process in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where members of the Committee debated amendments for over 30 hours. In the end, hundreds of amendments were filed and considered with dozens from both sides of the aisle accepted. The bill advanced out of the committee with a bipartisan 13-5 vote.
The "Group of 8' also worked closely with Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and John Hoeven (R-ND) to address concerns with the bill's border security measures. An amendment was adopted that makes significant investments in manpower and technology to secure the border. It would more than double the number of border agents and require the construction of 700 miles of fencing along the southern border.
The bill now awaits consideration by the House of Representatives. The strong bipartisan vote in the House is expected to put pressure on the body to act on legislation.