The Senate voted 84-15 yesterday to move forward on considering a comprehensive, bipartisan plan to overhaul the nation's immigration system, setting up what is expected to be a month-long debate on the bill.
The centerpiece of the legislation, drafted by four Democrats and four Republicans, is a 13-year path to citizenship for many of the 11 million people now in the country without legal status. This path would be expedited for DREAM Act students, young people brought illegally to the United States as children. The bill also includes beefed up rules on student visas and an increase in the number of H1-B visas for highly skilled workers.
The version of the DREAM Act included in the measure removes the age cap for eligibility, repeals the current federal law that limits states' options to provide in-state tuition to undocumented students and allows DREAM Act students to qualify for federal loans and work-study.
Although many observers saw the cloture vote as an encouraging sign for the bill’s eventual passage, a number of Republicans warned they would not vote to approve the measure without changes.
“At the risk of stating the obvious, this bill has serious flaws,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said in a statement. “I’ll vote to debate it and for the opportunity to amend it, but in the days ahead there will need to be major changes to this bill if it’s going to become law. These include, but are not limited to, the areas of border security, government benefits, and taxes.”
A number of amendments are in the works that could reshape the legislation to make the final version more palatable to a wider range of senators and increase its chances for eventual passage.