Hundreds of Amendments Proposed to Senate Reform Bill

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More than 300 amendments to the Senate’s immigration reform bill were filed by the Tuesday evening deadline, in anticipation of the Judiciary Committee initiating hearings on Thursday.

Two of the amendments are being viewed as potential dealbreakers: one is a measure to ensure gay citizens and permanent residents are able to petition for residency for their partners; the other, a measure that would loosen some of the requirements for high-tech companies seeking to fill positions with H-1B visa holders. The first one, in particular, is viewed as a potential dealbreaker and, in fact, is opposed by a number of the “Gang of Eight” senators who drafted the original immigration reform proposal.

But the vast majority of the amendments proposed seek to further limit numbers of immigrants gaining legal status or substantially toughen border controls. In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, there is a proposed amendment that seeks to modify screening procedures for immigrants from countries thought to “pose a risk” to security.

Four of the original “Gang of Eight” sit on the Judiciary Committee (Senators Durbin, Flake, Graham and Schumer), which would seem to bode well for the debate, but in fact a number of the amendments proposed Tuesday were drafted by Judiciary Committee members.

Some of the conservative talk recently has centered around breaking the proposed immigration reform bill into parts, and acting on each separately so that, for example, the popular increase in number of STEM-related visas might go through while the sharply contested path to citizenship proposals are still being argued.

If this were to become the prevailing sentiment in the Senate, it would be a disaster for immigration reform overall. Hard-won wisdom from earlier attempts to pass legislation show that even when hugely popular “pieces” — like the 2010 DREAM Act — are considered separately, they go down in flames.

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