The first few days of markup for the immigration reform bill, also known as the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (S.744),” have been relatively positive for supporters of commonsense immigration reform.
Despite strong conservative opposition to the immigration reform bill, attempts to substantially alter the bill have not been successful as of yet. Members from the bipartisan “Gang of Eight,” including Democrat Chuck Schumer and Republican Jeff Flake, have fended off proposals designed to derail reform.
The markup phase is when the Senate Judiciary Committee considers the more than 300 amendments proposed by senators, some good, some bad. The 18 Senators on the committee include 10 Democrats and 8 Republicans.
One of the amendments proposed that could have delayed immigration reform was the addition of a biometric tracking system. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama proposed the amendment, which would have required fingerprint and other biometric data to be tracked at all airports and other ports of entry when visitors entered and exited the country.
The proposal was voted down 6-12, with the two Republicans from the Gang of Eight joining the 10 Democrats in voting against it. Opponents of the amendment said that implementing the system would be too costly and too time consuming, and would ultimately delay the timeline for the pathway to citizenship, as immigrants wouldn’t be able to apply for citizenship until the biometric system was in place.
Another controversial amendment from Sessions would have put a cap on future legal immigration at 33 million over the next decade. It was voted down resoundingly 1-17.
Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa introduced amendments that would have required employers to prove that they had tried to hire American workers first before considering H-1B visa holders and would have required audits of employers who hire H-1B workers. Both were also voted down in part because of the Gang of Eight.