S. 744, the immigration bill that will change the game for U.S. immigration, passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. The bill passed with a firm 13-5 bipartisan vote. President Obama congratulated the Committee for its work and encouraged the Senate to bring the bill to the Senate floor as soon as possible. It is expected to be up for debate sometime in early June.
Although the bill has undergone some significant changes, the heart of it remains the same—providing a path to citizenship for the eleven million undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S., increasing border security measures, and creating options for highly skilled and guest workers. The overall consensus with conservatives appeared to be an acceptance that something must be done for the undocumented immigrants that are here now, and a willingness to do that something, as well as an equal concern for preventing future unlawful immigration. Some of the Democratic Senators held back on provisions that would have likely killed the bill in the Senate, such as including same-sex couples in the definition of marriage. There were also deals made to amend provisions relating to H-1B visas. Specifically, the bill as amended would require companies defined as “H-1B dependent” to first offer positions to qualified U.S. workers. The amendment changed the definition of H-1B dependent under Republican Senator Orin Hatch’s original proposal to include only companies employing more than 15 percent of H-1B workers in a specific occupation within the company.
Although passing the Committee is a significant step in the process, S. 744 still has some significant hurdles to jump and will surely undergo further changes as it makes its way through the Senate this summer.