Senate Committee Approves Immigration Reform

The fifth and final committee markup was held today for S. 774, the Senate’s version of the immigration reform bill. This markup focused primarily on Title II of the legislation, dealing with immigrant visas. At the conclusion of the markup, the Committee voted 13-5 to approve the bill and send it to the Senate floor for debate.

Among the amendments approved by the Committee on this day were:

  • A proposal by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) to allow DHS to contact all victims of a crime committed by an individual being considered for a waiver to reenter the country.
  • A proposal by Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) that requires registered provisional immigrants to undergo national security and law enforcement background checks before such status is renewed.
  • A proposal by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) which amends the definition of Targeted Employment Area for the purposes of EB-5 visas to include any community located near a closed or realigned military installation.

Also approved by the Committee was a compromise amendment between Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) dealing with H-1B visas for high-skilled tech workers. It is speculated that Senator Hatch’s support for the final bill was contingent on the passage of this amendment. However, it is important to note that this amendment does not have the support of Labor and may endanger the careful brokered agreement between the AFL-CIO and Chamber of Commerce on this issue.

Among the amendments rejected by the Committee on this day were:

  • A proposal by Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) that would’ve limited judicial review of RPI status.
  • A proposal by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) that would’ve allowed law enforcement agencies to access national security and public safety information and would’ve authorized the Secretary of State to share certain information with foreign governments.
  • A proposal by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) that would’ve required payment of all back taxes to immigrants who are legalizing, including all income and employment taxes owed while individual was in the US.
  • A proposal by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) that would’ve prohibited aliens who have absconded or have attempted to reenter the United States after receiving a deportation order from receiving registered provisional immigrant status.
  • A proposal by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) that would’ve prohibited the use of sworn affidavits or other unspecified documents to verify the employment or education of registered provisional immigrants applying for permanent residence.
  • A proposal by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) that would’ve made any person who has previously been willfully present in the United States while not in lawful status ineligible for United States citizenship.
  • A proposal by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) that would’ve made all aliens who have entered or remained present in the United States while not in lawful status ineligible for means-tested benefits.
  • A proposal by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) that would’ve set a low cap on family-based visas and strongly restricted visas for qualifying relatives.

Arguably the most controversial amendment of the entire bill, to permit recognition of same-sex marriages for purposes of immigration, was withdrawn by its sponsor, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) after it became clear that it didn’t have the ten votes needed for passage.

Another important development was the gutting of an amendment offered by Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) that would’ve completely overhauled the cancelation of removal. The amendment was replaced by a second-degree amendment offered by Senator Coons that had little to do with his initial proposal.

Also of note, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) withdrew his amendment to move the cut-off date for the physical-presence requirement to date of introduction (April 17, 2013).

The Committee held five days of debate on a total of 212 amendments, including first-degrees, second-degrees, and substitute amendments, with 141 being passed. The bill is expected to reach the Senate floor for consideration in early June.

Murray Osorio PLLC are Fairfax Immigration Attorneys dedicated to their clients and to their clients’ families. If you have an immigration matter, it’s important that you contact us as soon as possible. An experienced Fairfax Immigration Lawyer could make all the difference- call us at (240) 202-1566, or fill out our contact form.

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