News / USA

US Senate Panel Begins Immigration Debate

From left, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., standing, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, confer as the Senate Judiciary Committee meets on immigration reform on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 9, 2013.
From left, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., standing, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, confer as the Senate Judiciary Committee meets on immigration reform on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 9, 2013.
Michael Bowman
The U.S. Senate has begun formal consideration of a landmark bill to overhaul America’s oft-criticized immigration system. The bipartisan proposal faces a long and perilous path through Congress, beginning in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which started work on the bill Thursday.
 
Critics say the United States is awash in undocumented immigrants - 11 million in total - but slow to open its doors to high-skilled foreign workers who would boost America's lackluster economy. Ending illegal immigration, legalizing the undocumented that are already here, and attracting the world’s brightest and best-educated people are central goals of a bill crafted by four Democratic and four Republican senators. 
 
Democrat Charles Schumer touted the proposal at the Judiciary Committee. “It will mean dramatic improvement for the American economy, for the American people, and will make our immigration policy much more in synch with what is good for jobs and America," he said. 
 
Fellow Democrat Richard Durbin agreed. “Our immigration system is broken. The laws we have do not serve us well. And this is our chance in this hearing room to write an immigration bill for the 21st Century - for America and its future," he said. 
 
The bill aims to strengthen U.S. border security, streamline the legal immigration process, and provide a long and arduous path to eventual citizenship for most who entered the country illegally or overstayed their visas.
 
Already, some 300 amendments have been offered to the original framework proposal. Republican Senator Charles Grassley expressed skepticism that the bill as currently written will actually halt illegal immigration.
 
“We need to work together to secure the border first. People do not trust the enforcement of the law," he said. 
 
Republican Senator Ted Cruz agreed, predicting that if the bipartisan bill became law, America would see new waves of illegal immigration in future years.
 
Another Republican, Jeff Sessions, wants to make sure U.S. citizens are not harmed economically when millions of undocumented workers are legalized.
 
“We must be focused more on getting jobs for lawful immigrants in our country, and [for] Americans. [U.S.] wages are not even keeping up with inflation, and that has been true for quite a long time," he said. 
 
Democrats have amendments and priorities of their own. Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy wants guarantees that bi-national gay couples will have the same rights under America’s immigration system as their heterosexual counterparts.
 
Getting an immigration reform bill through both houses of a politically-divided Congress will be no easy feat. Provisions favored by Democrats, who control the Senate, might make the bill unpalatable to Republicans, who control the House of Representatives - and vice-versa.
 
Senator Schumer made a plea to his colleagues, saying “Be constructive. We are open to changes. But do not make an effort to kill a bill that is the best hope for immigration reform that we have had in this country.”
 
Sorting through the hundreds of amendments and crafting a final bill could take weeks. If approved by the Judiciary Committee, it would then go to the full Senate for a vote. Should it pass, attention would then shift to the House, which could vote on the Senate bill or write its own version. Only after both houses of Congress pass an identical immigration reform bill would it go to the White House for President Barack Obama’s signature.
 
Polls show a majority of Americans favor immigration reform, including a path to eventual citizenship for the undocumented. 

You May Like

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid