Over five days of intensive and sometimes emotional debate, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the first hurdle of advancing the immigration legislation by reaching a 13-5 vote on Tuesday night, with Sens. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) siding with the Democrats who voted unanimously. The measure will move to floor debate in June.
Of the 161 amendments offered during markup, the panel accepted numerous provisions to strengthen the bill, while keeping out any poison pills that could endanger the legislation. Below is a list of how the Senate Judiciary Committee improved immigration reform:
1. Racial profiling serves as a disincentive to prosecute an individual. Blumenthal 10 would prohibit federal government from reimbursing local detentions and prosecutions that were found to have come through racial profiling.
2. Children would be treated humanely. The Committee unanimously approved Franken 7, which provides a range of protections for children separated from their parents or guardians who are being deported. Hirono 22, as amended, would protect children trafficking victims by making sure that all unaccompanied children are provided care by the Office of Refugee Resettlement within three days of their apprehension while Feinstein 6 would allow children to receive both emergency and adequate medical and mental health care and basic necessities like food and bedding. Coons 2 will also limit dangerous deportation practices like dropping people off in the middle of the night.
4. Back taxes and penalties can be paid in an installment plan. Undocumented immigrants have to pay fines and back taxes before achieving legal status. Hirono 12 allows those fines to be paid in installments.
5. An expedited path to citizenship offered through military service.
Blumenthal 12 will allow an expedited path to citizenship for DREAMers who want to join the military. This amendment will allow individuals in temporary legal status to apply for naturalization after they have honorably served in the military.
6. Federal aid for DREAMers. Hirono 21 would allow DREAMers to access some student loans and federal work study programs. They would not be eligible for Pell grants, however.
7. Streamlining E-Verify so that employers and employees can have assurance of its accuracy. The Senate bill requires employers to use E-Verify and three key amendments help address privacy concerns associated with the system’s accuracy. Blumenthal 18 prohibits employers from withholding employment-relevant records from employees. Coons 1 requires the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to put in place a system that would allow employees to know whether they have been confirmed or denied by the E-Verify system. Franken 2 also requires a study of accuracy rates.
8. Humane treatment for detained immigrants. Blumenthal 2 limits ICE’s policy of using solitary confinement and explicitly prohibits the use of solitary confinement to “protect” a detainee based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
9. More visas for sub-Saharan Africa and Caribbean countries. Responding to concerns from the African American community, who feared that the loss of the diversity visa program would impact immigration from African and Caribbean countries, Schumer 3 adds 10,000 nonimmigrant E Visas for certain nations in sub-Saharan Africa and Caribbean countries.