By Leslie Wollack
With a 13 to 5 vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee, a comprehensive immigration overhaul bill is headed to the full Senate next month. National League of Cities (NLC) President Marie Lopez Rogers, mayor of Avondale, Arizona, called on local officials to support the legislation and urged them to call their Senators over the Memorial Day recess.
Mayor Rogers called the Senate committee action, "a critical step forward on a long journey toward adoption" and praised the bipartisan Senate effort that "championed the legislation through the process so far."
America's current immigration system hurts our residents and our cities. Local governments are stuck in the middle of a national debate while being forced to be on the front lines enforcing bad federal policy and trying to integrate immigrants into our communities.
The bill would create a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States, spend millions on new border security, increase workplace enforcement and set up several new categories for legal immigration.
Despite the bipartisan coalition that kept the bill close to the original tenets during the committee process, efforts to reform the current immigration system will face many more hurdles in the House of Representatives.
The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) spent five days working through the 200-plus amendments offered by committee members to the bill. Four of the original members responsible for introducing the bill, Sens. Charles Schumer (D-NY), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ), serve on the Judiciary Committee and worked to maintain the integrity of the original agreement - hashed out over months - during the committee action to mark-up the bill.
Proponents of the Senate bill are more optimistic of changes for passage of the bill than the last time the Senate considered immigration reform. Avoiding a committee mark-up and bringing the bill directly to the Senate floor, led to a fractious debate and ultimate failure in getting sufficient votes to pass the bill.
The final decision of the committee came on a proposed amendment that would have allowed same-sex couples to be considered as family members. Sen. Leahy withdrew his amendment in the face of likely opposition in the Senate and the Committee ended the final day of consideration after midnight with a lopsided vote in support of the comprehensive bill.
A bipartisan group has been working in the House for years to introduce immigration reform, but have been unable to reach final agreement.
Mayor Rogers called the Senate action a major step in reform and helping cities benefit from the economic contributions of immigrants to the nation and cities. "We look forward to working with and encourage all the members of the Senate to enact immigration reform and give the American people in our cities the best possible result while welcoming immigrants to our nation."