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

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More