The measure, passed 68-32, would create a path to citizenship for about 11 million undocumented immigrants now in the U.S.
The Senate passed the most significant revision of U.S. immigration law in a generation, in a bipartisan vote the bill’s backers say will put pressure on the Republican-controlled House to act.
The measure, passed 68-32, would create a path to citizenship for about 11 million undocumented immigrants now in the U.S., a priority for the Senate’s majority Democrats. It would direct $46.3 billion toward securing the border with Mexico -- the costliest plan ever -- added to gain Republican support.
"This legislation will be good for America’s national security as well as its economic security," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat. "It makes unprecedented investments in border security, it cracks down on crooked employers who exploit and abuse immigrant workers, and it reforms our legal immigration system."
The product of months of negotiations, the bill, S. 744, is encountering resistance in the House. Republicans in that chamber strongly oppose the citizenship path. Many Republicans prefer a piecemeal approach requiring proof that border-security measures are working before lawmakers would consider any form of legal status for undocumented immigrants.
Vice President Joe Biden presided over the Senate vote.
U.S. immigration law hasn’t been substantially revamped since 1986, when President Ronald Reagan signed a law that made 3 million undocumented workers eligible for legal status. That measure created a market for fraudulent documentation, and illegal immigration soared, discouraging later efforts to legalize undocumented immigrants.
A 2007 immigration plan died in the Senate and wasn’t considered in the House. The prospects for passage of a bipartisan bill are greater this time because some Republicans see the issue as a way to boost the party’s appeal with Hispanic voters, 71 percent of whom supported President Barack Obama in November.
The measure’s final passage "gets it out of the Senate with the wind at its back," Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican co-sponsoring the bill, said today. "Amnesty was the word of the day in 2006 and 2007. Now there’s been a sea change. Legal status for the 11 million is seen as a practical solution."