US Senate passes historic immigration bill

Rappler.com
(UPDATE) The United States senate passes comprehensive immigration reform bill 68-32

Immigrants wait for their citizenship interviews at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), district office on January 29, 2013 in New York City. John Moore/Getty Images/AFP

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – The US Senate passed the comprehensive immigration reform bill, on Thursday, June 27 (Friday June 28 in Manila). 

The bill is backed by US President Barack Obama and passed 68-32, picking up all the Democrats and 14 Republicans.  According to latest reports, there are about 11 million immigrants living in the United States without documents.  This bill’s most significant feature would allow those qualified among them a path to citizenship.

The bi-partisan bill was drafted by the so-called “gang of eight,” the group of eight senators (4 Republicans and 4 Democrats) who drafted the bill.

“The law cracks down on employers and abuse of the undocumented,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said addressing the chamber before the bill went to a vote.

Obama welcomed the Senate vote and urged the House to follow suit.

“Today, with a strong bipartisan vote, the United States Senate delivered for the American people, bringing us a critical step closer to fixing our broken immigration system once and for all,” Obama said.

But the president warned the bill’s supporters to “keep a watchful eye” on efforts to scupper reform, saying “now is the time when opponents will try their hardest to pull this bipartisan effort apart.”

Pulitzer Prize winning Filipino American journalist and immigrant rights advocate Jose Antonio Vargas Tweeted this shortly after the count was completed:

The bill will also beef up border security, adding 20,000 addition border patrol officers, 700 miles of fencing and funding for surveillance and drones.

According to latest reports, there are currently between 300,000 and 600,000 undocumented Filipinos living in the United States.

The measure now faces a rocky road in the Republican-led House of Representatives, but Schumer and Republican Gang of 8 Senator John McCain made a direct appeal to their colleagues on the other side of the US Capitol: work with us to achieve the most important immigration reform in a quarter century.

“To our friends in the House, we ask for your consideration, and we stand ready to sit down and negotiate with you,” McCain said.

“We may have different views on different aspects of this issue but we should all of us here have the same goal, and that is to take 11 million people out of the shadows, secure our borders, and make sure this is a nation of opportunity and freedom.”

While the legislation may have had overwhelming support in the Senate, House Speaker John Boehner has pledged not to bring the Senate bill for a vote.  

“The House is not going to take up and vote on whatever the Senate passes,” Republican House Speaker John Boehner told reporters.

“We’re going to do our own bill, through regular order, and it’ll be legislation that reflects the will of our majority and the will of the American people.”

Opponents have said the bill is too costly, or argue that loopholes will prevent authorities from gaining full operational control of the border before the citizenship process begins.

Its supporters are appealing to House members to support a bi-cameral version of this legislation. — with reports from Ryan Macasero/Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com

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