Senate Begins Immigration Debate; While Local Leaders Continue to Press for Action

June 10, 2013

By Leslie Wollack

We will be updating this page throughout the week to provide updates on the Senate's debate of S. 744, The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.

June 21, 2013

As the Senate debate continues on a major immigration overhaul, the House Judiciary Committee quickly dispensed with one bill in their piecemeal approach to immigration reform. The bill, introduced by House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security Chair Trey Gowdy (R-SC), would have a substantial impact on state and local law enforcement.

The long awaited report by the Congressional Budget Office was also released this week, providing immigration reform advocates good news on the cost implications of S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. According to CBO, the Senate immigration bill would reduce federal deficits by nearly $200 billion over ten years and generate further savings after ten years. CBO estimates that if S. 744 were enacted, the US population would increase by 10.4 million and the federal deficit would decrease by $197 billion, bringing in new revenue from new income and payroll taxes.

The Senate began voting on amendments to the so-called "Gang of 8" comprehensive immigration bill and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) insisted that the Senate would vote on final passage by the July 4th recess. After contentious debate and several successful votes to resist strong enforcement amendments that bill sponsors characterized as "poison pills" aimed at killing the legislative efforts to provide an earned path to citizenship that is central to the Senate bill, a group of Senators brought forth a compromise enforcement amendment to gain more Republican support. 

June 13, 2013

Debate continued on S. 744 into the evening on June 13. As of 4:30 PM, the Senate voted to table the Grassley amendment which would delay moving the 11 million undocumented immigrants into Registered Provisional Status (RPI) until the border is deemed secure for at least six months. This would change the bill's balance between border security and moving undocumented immigrants toward legal status. Click here, to view the Roll call vote on motion to table the amendment.

June 12, 2013

As Senate debate on S. 744 began in earnest on Wednesday, Senators clashed over an amendment by Sen. Cornyn on border security and Sen. Hatch offered a series of amendments that would further restrict benefits such as health care to legalized immigrants.

In the House, Rep. Labrador (R-Idaho), who recently announced he will quit the bipartisan group working on a House comprehensive immigration package, said he will work with House Judiciary Committee Chairman Goodlatte on single-issue immigration bills which will be marked up later this month.

For local governments, the benefits of immigration reform include the boost to local economies. The Immigration Policy Center has compiled information on estimated economic benefits of immigration reform

June 11, 2013

The Senate voted 82 - 15 to allow the debate on S 744 to begin. Debate will continue this week. The next vote will be the vote to begin debate on the bill. The roll call can be found here

The President addressed a diverse group of immigration supporters at the White House including NLC President Marie Lopez Rogers. Here are the President's remarks and Mayor Rogers' statement released after the event. 

June 10, 2013

As the Senate is poised to begin voting this week on S. 744, the bipartisan immigration reform bill approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee last month, local officials continue to press Congress for action.

NLC 2nd Vice President Ralph Becker, Mayor of Salt Lake City, joined with 18 Utah mayors, urging support from Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Mike Lee (R-UT). The nineteen mayors, representing cities large and small through Utah, noted in a letter to their Senators, their concern "that if substantial reform does not happen soon, our cities will be worse off."
Warning that immigrants educated in Utah cannot contribute to the states technology industry and that the immigrant workforce is critical to the state's technology, agriculture and tourism sectors, the mayors called on their national elected officials to take a leadership role in passing S. 744.

The mayors also applauded the recent efforts by Senator Hatch for his leadership on voting in support of the bi-partisan "Gang of Eight" comprehensive immigration legislation as it passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. The mayors emphasized the growing consensus that Congress must work together to develop a solution that ensures a modernized immigration system in order to continue to attract the best and brightest to our shores and ensure we have enough workers to sustain our economy and remain competitive.

"The United States and specifically Utah cannot afford to wait any longer to fix our outdated immigration system," said Park City Mayor Dana Williams. "Our cities will face significant challenges unless substantial reform is enacted. A modern immigration system needs to be easy to understand, easy to navigate, and easy to implement. It needs to bring the 11 million undocumented immigrants into the legal economy so they can pay taxes, attain better education, and contribute more to U.S. economic growth and our local economy."

"We need leaders on this issue now to make sure we do not keep pushing this problem off to future generations," said West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder. "It is important that we create a viable guest worker program so that technology companies, farms, hotels, and other industries in Utah can more easily find temporary workers to fill specific employment needs. Right now in the U.S., only 7 percent of all visas are granted for work-related reasons. We need real and substantial immigration reform, not just because it is the right thing to do, but also the best action for our economy and our families."

Local officials have supported a common sense approach to immigration reform, noting the benefits to local economies. Recently the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC estimated the economic benefits of immigration reform for 24 states. View the research here.

Senate Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), in announcing the imminent debate, said he expected Senators to complete action before the July 4th recess.

The prospects and path in the House are less clear. A bipartisan group has been working for months on a comprehensive package of reforms but have not reached consensus. One of the group members, Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) just announced his departure from the discussions.

The seven lawmakers remaining will continue their efforts, even as the House Judiciary Committee will begin to hold hearings on individual pieces of legislation on immigration reform. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has said he hopes the House will vote on an immigration bill by the August summer recess.

NLC President Marie Lopez Rogers, mayor, Avondale, AZ continued to urge local officials to call lawmakers urging support for common sense reform that balances border security, workplace enforcement, visa controls and an earned pathway to citizenship.