The Senate Thursday passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill by a vote of 68-32, with 14 Republicans joining the Democrats voting in favor. The bill will provide a 13-year path to citizenship and will now be sent to the House, where its fate in the Republican-controlled chamber is uncertain.
In January, the bipartisan "gang of eight" released its framework for the legislation aimed at providing a solution to the 13 million immigrants currently present in the United States with no permanent legal status. The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act was formally introduced in April and debate on the Senate floor began on June 11.
In the volatile back and forth on the bill, the Senate attempted to appease both political parties as well as business and labor groups. From hundreds of potential amendments, one approved to be included in the final bill was proposed by Republican Sens. John Hoeven, N.D. and Bob Corker, Tenn., aimed at placating Republicans who said the bill didn't include enough border security measures. That amendment requires 20,000 additional border agents and 700 miles of fencing to be in place before immigrants are allowed to begin the process of applying for citizenship.
Sen. Marco Rubio, Fla., has been a Republican champion for the bill, aggressively lobbying his party to get behind the legislation. The GOP lost the Hispanic vote to Democrats by a wide margin in November 2012, and has since acknowledged that it needs to take steps to appeal to a more diverse base if it wishes to remain politically viable.
House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said that even though the Senate has reached a compromise, the bill won't find a guaranteed path through his chamber:
The House is not going to take up and vote on whatever the Senate passes. 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. For any legislation – including a conference report – to pass the House, it's going to have to be a bill that has the support of a majority of our members.
President Barack Obama, who has largely stayed out of negotiations, said the bill represents a compromise. He called immigration a "contributor to growth," and encouraged business leaders to press for House approval of the bill.
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