Immigration proposal survives Senate vote
WASHINGTON – The Senate voted Monday night to move forward on an overhaul of immigration laws, but even proponents of the delicate compromise proposal conceded that the furor over the deal was surpassing their expectations and endangering the plan.
The 69-23 vote masked deep troubles from the right flank of the Senate, as well as from the left. Opponents of even conducting a debate on the measure included some unexpected voices, such as freshman Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Bernie Sanders, an independent liberal from Vermont. Several conservatives – and some liberals – made it clear that they cast a vote to proceed only to fundamentally change the proposed legislation in the coming days.
With dozens of amendments planned, traps being laid by opponents could upset the fragile coalition that drafted the measure. What’s more, Senate leaders gave up hope Monday night that they could pass the bill this week, ensuring it will be left hanging over a weeklong Memorial Day recess.
Senate leadership aides said Monday that the proposal could probably muster the support of about 30 Republicans and 30 Democrats – just enough to beat a filibuster, which was all but promised Monday by conservatives.
The bill would grant legal status to virtually all the estimated 12 million undocumented workers in the country, create a temporary-worker program, tighten border controls, crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants, and create a point system for future immigration to de-emphasize family ties in favor of education and work skills.
Supporters had expected opposition from both ends of the political spectrum. But they conceded they were taken aback by the furious response over the weekend, especially from conservatives, who declared that the legislation is nothing short of amnesty.
“This bill is compromising to the country’s economy, national security and very foundation of a democracy rooted in the rule of law,” Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., said.
Worse still, business groups expected to provide muscle to push the bill have instead voiced opposition. Business groups have called the temporary-worker program impractical. They have also protested a provision that would force employers to verify the legal status of every worker in the country, and have said a point system for permanent-residence visas, or green cards, would deprive them of the ability to bring in foreign workers with distinct skills they need.