May 22, 2013
In what has to be the quickest, quietest approval process in history, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act got the go-ahead yesterday from the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill now moves to the Senate floor where it may pass again, just as quickly, if Americans remain distracted by the current “scandals” inside the White House.
The bipartisan “Gang of Eight” immigration reform bill passed in the Democratic-controlled committee by a vote of 13-5. All 10 Democrats on the panel voted in favor of the bill and they were joined by three Republicans – Jeff Flake of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Orrin Hatch of Utah.
Given it’s size and complexity, the 844-page bill, consisting of approximately 300 amendments passed with amazing speed in less than three weeks. But maybe it’s really not so amazing when you consider what’s on the line for both parties.
Republicans who’ve been accused of pandering to gun lobbyists and using the IRS, AP and Benghazi controversies to “make hay” don’t want to make more waves by fighting the immigration bill. Allowing the bill to pass without argument also gives the impression that the Republicans party cares about their constituents. And during the last election, Latinos voted overwhelmingly for Obama, so both parties, especially Republicans, want their share of the Latino vote next time around.
Senator Hatch’s swing vote is of particular importance and highlights one of the key reasons Americans need to avoid the “scandalous” distractions in Washington and pay closer attention to this bill. In order to get Hatch’s support, Gang of Eight negotiator Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York, raised the cap on the number of H1-B visas from 65,000 to 110, 000, and added provision to increase the number even higher to 180,000.
The H1-B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in high-tech occupations.
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio was also appreciative of Hatch’s support:
“The Senate Judiciary Committee’s approval of Senator Hatch’s proposal to improve the H-1B visa provisions in the immigration legislation address key concerns shared by many conservatives,” he said in a statement. “We must modernize our broken legal immigration system to meet the needs of America’s 21st century economy and create jobs. Senator Hatch’s amendment provides important protections for American workers while also ensuring that fast-growing and high-tech firms can continue to create jobs here in America.”
But the AFL-CIO disagrees. “Hatch’s amendments would change the bill so high-tech companies can hire new immigrant employees without first making the jobs available to American workers,” wrote Ana Avendaño, assistant to the president for immigration at the AFL-CIO, in the email. “Hatch’s amendments would mean American corporations could fire American workers in order to bring in new immigrant workers at lower wages.”
The Congressional Budget Office will assess the fiscal cost of the bill over the next two weeks, and then it moves on to the full Senate. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is urging Republicans not to block the bill from a floor vote. The bill is expected to be enacted on or before October 1, 2013, which is the date set for funding the initial $6.6 billion Trust Fund.