Big Immigration Bill Advances in Senate; Will be Debated for Weeks

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.
June 11, 2013 Updated: June 11, 2013

A new immigration bill will be debated for weeks by the U.S. Senate after two procedural votes advanced the landmark legislation on June 11.

The two procedural votes were 82-15 and 84-15.

The bill is being hailed as a big fix for the pressing problems surrounding immigration. For one, it will end the “waves of illegal immigrants” by building $1 billion worth of a border fence across the border with Mexico, while covering the rest with technology like drones, said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) after the motion passed.

The parts of the border that won’t be covered by fencing will be monitored through sensors, fixed towers, radars, and especially drones, said Schumer. 

“I visited the border–It’s huge,” he said. “You can’t station enough people on the border, there are no roads on large parts of it, but with the drones, you can see every single person that crosses the border day or night, and you can follow their paths so they can be apprehended.”

At the same time, the bill lays out a”tough but realistic path” for people who are here illegally to become legal U.S. citizens. These people will be held accountable for what they did, while allowing them “to join the American society on our terms,” according to Schumer.

The path allows millions of undocumented immigrants to apply for a green card after a 10 year probation period in the country, then apply for citizenship three years later.

Through the bill’s strict measures on immigrants becoming citizens, America will avoid the “huge mistake that Europe has made,” where in some countries disillusioned immigrants have been “affected by a sense of alienation” and “a lack of upward mobility,” said Schumer.

“Here we give people the chance to be all they can be through their hard work,” he said.

Schumer is one of a group of 10 bipartisan senators who drafted the bill, which President Barack Obama supports.

Earlier in the day, Obama said that “Congress needs to act, and that moment is now,” and added that the bill should be done by the end of summer.

Other components of the bill include a $6.5 billion trust fund for spending on the border fencing and other areas, as well requiring an apprehension rate of 90 percent of illegal immigrants crossing the border. If this rate isn’t reached in five years, a commission would be set up that would figure out how best to use another $2 billion to strengthen border security even more.

Bill ‘Enormously Complicated’

Some Republican senators, though, speaking after Schumer, said that the bill is too complex and wouldn’t solve the problems it is supposed to solve.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said that the current 1,076 page version of the bill is “enormously complicated, and though it will pass the senate it won’t pass through the house in its current form.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), one of the senators who wrote a letter to other senators outlining opposition to the bill, stood before the senators with a board of four “claims” that he took on one by one. One of the claims that are untrue, he says, is that instead of fully making undocumented immigrants pay back taxes, social security, medicare, and employer taxes are excluded. 

“The bill before us fails to make good on that promise,” he said.

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.