Senate Passes Bipartisan Immigration Bill while House Continues to Stall

FinalImmigrationVoteWith Vice President Joe Biden presiding, this week the U.S. Senate passed S. 744, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013,” with a final vote of 68–32.  It included support from 14 Republicans.  Despite warnings from Vice President Biden regarding the Senate’s rules of decorum, audience members in the Senate gallery could be heard chanting “Yes we can!” upon the announcement of the results.  Indeed, there was much to celebrate:  S. 744 is a bipartisan bill that offers a pathway to citizenship for the majority of undocumented immigrants in the country, contains a “DREAM Act” provision without an age cap, would clear the green card backlog reuniting millions of families, and would invigorate our economy for decades to come.  Although not a perfect bill, the U.S. Senate has done its job and delivered a real solution to our broken immigration system.

In stark contrast, yesterday the House Judiciary Committee approved its fourth dead-end immigration bill in two weeks, the “Supplying Knowledge-based Immigrants and Lifting Levels of STEM Visas Act” (H.R. 2131), also known as the “SKILLS Act.”  On the surface, this bill would reform our country’s visa system in favor of attracting and retaining immigrants specializing in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.  There is a strong consensus among Republicans and Democrats that our visa system must be modernized in order to attract the most qualified, talented, and educated immigrants, many of whom receive their degrees from American universities.  Of the bills the Committee has taken up over the last two weeks, the “SKILLS Act” had the greatest potential of receiving bipartisan support.

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This Week in Immigration Reform – Week Ending June 28

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Special Edition: Senate Passes S. 744!

Week Ending June 28

This week in immigration reform: the Senate passes S. 744 with a strong bipartisan 68-32 vote on Thursday June 27, a historic step forward for immigration reform and a milestone for all those who have worked for reform over these past several months, especially NCLR’s Affiliates and partners who worked tirelessly by meeting with senators, calling into offices, and organizing in countless other creative ways.  On to the House!

Senate passes S. 744 in strong bipartisan vote; House is next!  After years of hard work on the part of the Latino and immigrant-rights community as well as by the Senate “Gang of Eight” (Sens. John McCain (R–Ariz.), Dick Durbin (D–Ill.), Marco Rubio (R–Fla.), Robert Menendez (D–N.J.), Lindsey Graham (R–S.C.), Charles Schumer (D–N.Y.), Jeff Flake (R–Ariz.) and Michael Bennet (D–Colo)) the Senate voted to approve S. 744, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013,” in a strong bipartisan vote of 68-32 on Thursday, June 27th 2013.

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On to the House!

Today the Senate passed its immigration reform bill, S. 744. It was a momentous occasion that included Vice President Biden who presided over the vote. The fight now moves on to the House, where there will surely be challenges, but today we celebrate this historic vote.

As our President and CEO said in her statement after the vote: “Let me be very clear: Latino voters, who generated the game-changing momentum in this debate, will remember this vote. They will particularly remember those who stood with—and who stood against—our community and, most importantly, our country’s best interests. The question now is whether the House of Representatives will stand for progress or prevent it.”

Now, check out what we won in S. 744. (Thanks, America’s Voice, for the awesome graphic!)

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Senators Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Reform Housing Finance System

Sold Home For Sale Sign in Front of New HouseThe housing market is heating up, and so are regulatory efforts by Congress to address the fate of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—the two government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) that Congress essentially nationalized during the financial crisis.  This week, Senators Bob Corker (R–Tenn.) and Mark Warner (D–Va.) introduced bipartisan legislation that would reform the nation’s housing finance system by replacing the GSEs with a new government agency that would shift more of the risks of mortgage lending to the private sector.  A new housing finance system has the potential to help sustain a robust housing market, open up housing opportunities for millions of families, and bolster economic growth for the nation.

Senators Corker and Warner should be commended for their efforts to address this critical issue.  However, the proposed bill is inadequate because it focuses on the needs of lenders and investors rather than the needs of families.  The goal of a new housing finance system should be to restore balance to the housing market and provide accessible lines of credit to broad and diverse homebuyers.  Unfortunately, the Corker-Warner system would offer limited credit and housing options that would be too expensive, especially for minorities, low- and moderate-income households, and rural households.

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The Gang of Eight vs. the Gang of Nay

By Clarissa Martinez de Castro, Director, Civic Engagement and Immigration, NCLR

MartinezdeCastro_uploadThis week, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) wrote an op-ed for Politico on why he is voting no on the Senate “Gang of Eight” bill.  Sen. Paul is one of a group of senators who profess to want immigration reform yet never managed to support anything close to it.  With his new rationale, he joins the “Gang of Nay,” the hard-core opponents of reform, including Senators Sessions (R-Ala.), Cornyn (R-Texas), Cruz (R-Texas), and Vitter (R-La.), all of whom contend that there isn’t enough in the bill to secure the border.

Not enough?  Someone who has not followed the immigration issue would believe this was all being done because our country has ignored border enforcement.  And to hear the border-obsessed senators talk, you would think that they are the first people to come up with the idea of doing something about the border.  There’s just one problem with this line of thinking:  it flies completely in the face of the facts.

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