U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today provided an update on the Senate's negotiations over the comprehensive immigration reform bill he helped draft and said he is optimistic about the proposal's chances for passage. Durbin was a member of the bipartisan Gang of Eight that introduced the bill in April after several months of negotiations and sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is currently considering the legislation.
"When I return to Washington tomorrow, the Senate Judiciary Committee will resume its consideration of this common-sense compromise on comprehensive immigration reform," Durbin said. "We are about halfway through our committee's work on the bill and hope to finish this week so we can move the legislation to the Senate floor for debate in June. Reaching agreement on this bill is a tough challenge, but there are people of goodwill on all sides working to do so. We have a good chance to take meaningful action for the first time in twenty-five years to fix our country's broken immigration system."
Durbin was joined at the news conference by U.S. Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL-04), a member of the House Judiciary Committee who is closely involved in bipartisan negotiations aimed at introducing a bill in that chamber in June.
"Both parties are working together in both houses of Congress towards solving the problem of how to fix our broken immigration system," Gutierrez said. "It is no longer a question of if, but when. Senator Durbin and I are doing everything we can to make it happen and get a good bill to the President's desk this year."
The balanced immigration reform plan was introduced after months of negotiations by a group of four Senate Democrats and four Republicans. The bill contains provisions that provide a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States, a proposal contingent on the realization of border security measures. It also reforms the nonimmigrant visa system to combine greater employer flexibility with worker protections and mandates employers' use of an electronic verification system to determine employees' immigration status.
Durbin and Gutierrez were joined at the news conference by several DREAMers -- young people who were brought to the country as children. The Senate's immigration bill contains a strong version of the DREAM Act, which Durbin first introduced twelve years ago and has reintroduced in every session of Congress since. The current version allows individuals who came to the U.S. before turning 16 and who have completed high school or obtained a GED to register for provisional legal status, grandfathering in those who have already been approved for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Five years after registering, those individuals may apply for adjustment of status. Those five years will count towards their eligibility for naturalization, allowing them to become citizens immediately upon receiving their green card. Children under 16 will have a five year path to citizenship and are exempted from certain requirements.
"These Dreamers grew up in the United States pledging allegiance to our flag and singing the only national anthem they know," Durbin said. "Last year, President Obama's Deferred Action policy gave them a chance to come out of the shadows and live and work without fear in their home country. Now, our bill will give them a chance to earn their way to citizenship. These young people are driven and hard-working -- exactly the individuals who should have a chance to make their way in America."