On Thursday afternoon, an immigration reform bill that would affect millions of undocumented immigrants was approved by a final vote of 68 to 32 in the Senate. The bill puts up to 11 million undocumented immigrants on a pathway to citizenship and enforces tough border security measures. Vice President Joe Biden presided over the historic vote, in which all the senators were required to vote from their desks. The Senate gallery was packed with exuberant DREAMers, undocumented youths who were brought to the U.S. by their parents. The gallery chanted “Yes we can” after the bill was officially passed.
After the cloture vote occurred early Thursday afternoon, politicians on both sides of the aisle spoke emotionally about the need to pass the bill.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) teared up as he spoke of his wife’s father, who immigrated from Russia, and reflected on the letters sent to him by undocumented individuals who were brought to the U.S. as children and raised in fear of deportation. He compared present-day immigrants to all the previous waves of immigrants, notably lauding the achievements that these new Americans could contribute:
It recognizes that today’s immigrants came for the very same reason as generations before them— to achieve a dream we take for granted, the right to live in the land of the free.
Across the aisle, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) invoked his immigrant parents as he argued passionately that immigration reform will help future generations to fulfill their dreams:
Here, immigrants will give their children the life they once wanted for themselves. Here generations of unfulfilled dreams will finally come to pass. Even with all our challenges, we remain the shining city on the hill. We are still the hope of the world. And in the end, that is why I support this reform. Yes, I believe in immigrants, but I believe in America even more.
The bill now faces an uphill battle in the House, where many Republican congressmen have vowed their opposition to any kind of an immigration deal that includes a pathway to citizenship. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has promised that he would not advance a reform bill without a majority agreement by House Republicans.