Federal Relations

June 27, 2013

Senate Passes Immigration Reform

A short time ago, the US Senate approved sweeping immigration legislation. By a vote of 68 to 32, the Senate approved and concluded a month-long debate of a measure which was nearly 1,200 pages. To note the historic significance of the vote, Vice President Biden presided over the vote and Senators voted from their desks, which is a rare procedural move to mark historic votes and special occasions. The Senate used the same formal procedure of voting from their desks to pass ObamaCare three years ago.

The bill remakes the nation’s immigration system for the first time in a generation by spending tens of billions of dollars to bolster security along the U.S. southern border and offering a path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants.

The Senate bill includes many changes the higher education community has been seeking for several decades. The measure incorporates elements of the DREAM Act and establishes an expedited pathway to citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants. These young people are here through no decision of their own and 65,000 of them graduate from U.S. high schools each year. These students would be afforded the opportunity to go to their states’ public colleges and universities at in-state tuition rates at the state’s discretion while participating in federal student loan and work study programs.

The bill streamlines and expands the green card process and eliminates many of our current system’s worst features, where universities train the best international STEM students only to force them to leave for no reason other than a lack of employment visas. It is an economically self-defeating policy.

The legislation now moves to the House for consideration. Speaker Boehner has said he will not bring up the bill. While he has not endorsed a piecemeal approach, which has been suggested by some in his caucus, Boehner has said anything brought to the House Floor will have a majority of Republican support.