S.744 Immigration Reform Bill Forges On to the Senate Floor

Senate Bill S.744 was approved this week by a bipartisan vote of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The 13-5 vote in favor of the bill would not have happened without the approval of an amendment sponsored by Republican Senator Orrin Hatch (UT) which links the number of available H-1B work visas to real-time conditions in the United States labor market and without a concession by Democratic Senator Patrick J. Leahy (VT) not to offer his amendment allowing United States citizens to sponsor their same-sex partners for permanent resident status, commonly known as a “green card.”

The approval of Senator Hatch’s provision has been touted as a win for business. Meanwhile, Senator Leahy came under pressure from those within his own party not to offer his amendment. The vote marks the end of a 5-day mark up process which saw 301 proposed amendments to the bill, whose core provisions remain largely intact.

The next stop for the bill is the Senate floor, where debate will begin next month. Expect a tough fight. Conservative opponents want stiffer border security measures. Proponents of the bill recognize that they need the support of their Republican brethren, but are wary of making concessions that would affect the pathway to legal status for the 11 million undocumented already in the United States.

There seems to be little debate that our immigration laws need to be fixed. The controversy right now is over how to fix them. Proponents favor revamping the laws in a single bill, in other words comprehensive immigration reform. Opponents want to take an incremental approach, which is to say “let’s deal with the border first, then we can talk about the other things you want.”

My sense of the political dynamics is that we will see some kind of immigration reform this summer, but keeping the path to legal status clear of roadblocks will likely require further concessions on the part of Democrats, which will come at the risk of alienating their core constituents.

Timothy D. Widman is a San Jose Immigration Attorney. He is the owner of the Law Office of Timothy D. Widman, which is located in San Jose, California.

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