After years of debate and partisan gridlock, the U.S. Senate on Thursday passed a sweeping immigration reform bill. Drafted by a bipartisan group of eight lawmakers, the legislation passed by a vote of 68-32.
President Obama, in a statement issued from Senegal, applauded the "strong bipartisan vote," which brings the nation "a critical step closer to fixing our broken immigration system once and for all."
The bill includes a 13-year path to legal citizenship for undocumented immigrants already living in the U.S., calls for 20,000 new Border Patrol agents, 700 miles of fencing and detection devices along the U.S.-Mexico border and a system to check the legal status of job applicants already living here. It also calls for separate provisions for low-skilled and farm workers and increases the number of visas available for high-skilled technology workers.
"Today, the Senate did its job. It's now up to the House to do the same," the president said.
But House Republicans are not feeling pressed and Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan has already said that the Senate bill will not make it through the lower chamber.
In addition, members of the congressional Black, Hispanic and Asian-Pacific American caucuses at a Thursday afternoon press conference strongly denounced the tougher measures Republicans have put on the table. And instead of one comprehensive piece of legislation, they are considering a series of smaller bills that eliminate visa programs for siblings and to create diversity, and provide no legal pathway to citizenship.
“Immigration reform is not about closing the doors of opportunity to Americans, or about creating a system where only those who have the means to meet certain requirements are able to immigrate to this country; it is about ensuring there is a fair and equitable process for everyone," said Rep. Marcia Fudge, who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus. "If we want to give this country the reform it deserves, we must work together in a bipartisan, thoughtful and deliberate way."
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