The Senate cleared the way for final passage of a sweeping bipartisan immigration bill by a vote of 68 to 32 on Thursday. The bill would strengthen border security measures and put 11 million undocumented immigrants on a pathway to citizenship. Crafting of the bill, which was lambasted by opponents as amnesty, and touted by supporters as a fix to the broken immigration system has been difficult, but it ultimately resulted in a compromise maintaining the major interests of both sides. A final vote is expected on Thursday afternoon.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that passage of the Senate bill would reduce the federal budget deficit by $197 billion. Legalization and an ultimate pathway to citizenship would elevate the wages of these newly legalized immigrants by 15.1 percent in the first decade, who in turn also increase the wages of U.S.-born workers. Studies have shown these immigrants will create new 121,000 jobs per year, and will contribute a net of over $600 billion to Social Security over the coming decades, the exact time that Social Security will see the biggest strain from baby boomer retirement.
The linchpin that brought together a bipartisan coalition was a compromise amendment jointly presented by Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and John Hoeven (R-ND) who retained the pathway to citizenship provision without change, but also initiated a “border surge” of 20,000 new border patrol agents, 700 more miles of fencing, 18 unmanned surveillance drones, and a mandatory enforcement of an employment identification verification system. Their amendment passed 69-29 on Wednesday.
During the sometimes heated floor debates, some Republicans expressed concerns over a path to citizenship without toughened border security provisions. Ultimately, the final bill includes 48 Republican amendments ensuring even tougher border security provisions.
After the Senate passess the bill, it will move to the House, where House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) indicated that he would not advance a reform without a majority vote from House Republicans, many of whom have vowed not to accept a deal that includes a pathway to citizenship.