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Judiciary Committee Concludes Marathon Markup, Passes Immigration Bill

May 22, 2013 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

On May 21, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. The bill was reported out of committee shortly before 8:00 PM. The vote on the bill was 13 to 5, with all Democrats on the Committee supporting it along with Republican Senators Graham, Flake and Hatch.

In the two days leading up to the vote, the Committee considered approximately 80 amendments in day-long plus evening sessions. All of the amendments that would have threatened the compromise agreement were defeated.

Amendments to Title III

On May 20, the Committee finished considering amendments to Title III (begun the week before), concerning interior enforcement. Some of the amendments considered:


  • Leahy amendment #3. This amendment makes VAWA self-petitioners eligible for work authorization, and requires DHS to issue work authorization for those who have approved VAWA petitions or whose petitions have been pending for more than 180 days. It also requires issuance of work authorization to those with approved T or U visa applications or whose applications have been pending for more than 180 days. It was approved by voice vote.

  • Hatch amendment #7. This amendment would terminate the preferential treatment in immigration law for certain Amerasians. It was accepted by voice vote.

  • Feinstein amendment #3. This amendment would provide an additional 5,000 visas per year for three years for displaced Tibetans.

  • Graham amendment #2 (as amended). This amendment would require DHS to attempt to locate and remove a non-immigrant who has overstayed his or her visa. This amendment was accepted by voice vote.

  • Klobuchar amendment #2. This amendment would add elder abuse to the list of crimes for which victims may be eligible for a U visa. This amendment was accepted by voice vote.

  • Sessions amendment #31. This amendment would make Registered Provisional Immigrants (and other non-citizens and non-permanent residents) ineligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit. It was rejected by a vote of 8 to 10.

  • Franken amendment #8 (as amended). This amendment would transfer responsibilities for providing a child advocate and access to counsel for child victims of trafficking, as specified in the Victims of Trafficking Protection Act, from the Department of Health and Human Services to the Department of Justice. It was adopted by voice vote.

  • Graham amendment #1 (as amended). This amendment would terminate refugee or asylum status for a person granted such status if the person returns to the country from which he or she fled. The amendment allows the Secretary to waive the termination for good cause. The amendment was adopted by voice vote.

  • Coons amendment #5. This amendment requires DHS to provide to aliens in removal proceedings a copy of all documents pertaining to the individual's case, except for certain sensitive documents. The amendment was accepted by voice vote.

  • Hatch amendment #6 (as amended). This amendment requires the establishment of a biometric exit data system beginning with the 10 busiest U.S. airports in two years, and expanding to the 30 busiest within six years. The amendment was agreed to by a vote of 13 to 5.

  • Feinstein amendment #4. This amendment mandates the completion of identity checks for all persons being considered for refugee or asylum status before being granted status. It was adopted by voice vote.

  • Coons amendment #8. This amendment requires work authorization to be issued to asylum applicants after 180 days. The amendment was agreed to by voice vote.

  • Grassley amendment #52. This amendment would delay implementation of sections of the bill pertaining to the elimination of the one-year asylum deadline, the grant of asylum to persons arriving in the U.S., and dual intent student visas until after the completion of a review of the recent Boston bombings. This amendment was rejected in a voice vote.

  • Grassley amendment #49. This amendment would alter the legislation's anti-racial profiling provisions to permit country of origin profiling. It was rejected in a voice vote.

  • Feinstein amendment #5 (as amended). This amendment would mandate training of Customs and Border Protection personnel regarding child trafficking. It was accepted by voice vote.

  • Grassley amendment #43. This amendment expands the legislation's definition of criminal gangs, would make individuals ineligible for Registered Provisional Status for gang membership, regardless of conviction for any crime. The amendment was rejected in an 8 to 10 vote.

  • Whitehouse amendment #5. This amendment would ban firearm sales to terrorists. It was withdrawn.

  • Sessions amendment #7 (as amended). This amendment would increase visa fees on nationals from countries that do not accept individuals from those countries being removed from the U.S. The amendment was withdrawn.

  • Franken amendment #7. This amendment adds a new subtitle H to Title III, the Humane Enforcement and Legal Protections for Separated Children Act. It would require DHS to follow certain procedures after apprehending persons who are parents of minor children in the U.S. It was adopted by a vote of 18 to 0.

  • Lee amendment #16 (as amended). This amendment makes changes to the bill to restore the criminal offense of knowingly using a fraudulent immigration document. It was accepted by voice vote.

  • Coons amendment #6 (as amended). This amendment specifies certain records DHS would be required to maintain concerning detained immigrants. It was adopted by voice vote.

  • Grassley amendment #45. This amendment would toughen certain penalties related to illegal entry, reentry, passport fraud and immigration fraud. It was rejected in a vote of 8 to 10.

  • Blumenthal amendment #2. This amendment places restrictions on the use of solitary confinement for immigration detainees. It was adopted by voice vote.

  • Sessions amendment #10 (as amended). This amendment would define an immigrant as a public charge if he or she was eligible to receive certain federal means-tested benefits. It was rejected in a voice vote.

  • Coons amendment #12. This amendment would deny refugee or asylum status for certain human rights violators. It was adopted by voice vote.

  • Lee amendment #17. This amendment would clarify that attempted fraudulent use of a passport is a crime. It was adopted in a voice vote.

  • Blumenthal amendment #3 (as amended). This amendment would provide certain protections for workers who are victims of abuse by foreign labor recruiters. This amendment was accepted by voice vote.

  • Grassley amendment #47. This amendment would strike section 3717 of the bill, relating to bond determinations for detained immigrants. It was rejected in a voice vote.

  • Blumenthal amendment #4. This amendment added language to the bill concerning the protections against trafficking by foreign labor recruiters. It was adopted by voice vote.

  • Sessions amendment #12. This amendment would require a minimum bond of $5,000 for release from detention if the immigrant was from a non-contiguous country. The amendment was rejected in a 9 to 9 vote.

  • Blumenthal amendment #5 (as amended). This was another amendment aimed at strengthening protections for workers recruited abroad. It was adopted by voice vote.

  • Hatch amendment #2. This amendment increases penalties for persons convicted of cultivating or manufacturing controlled substances on federal property. It was accepted by voice vote.

  • Blumenthal amendment #6. This amendment would extend a prohibition on firearm sales to nonimmigrants who enter through the visa waiver program. It was withdrawn.

  • Sessions amendment #32 (as amended). This amendment asserts states have inherent authority to enforce immigration laws; denies states or localities reimbursement for incarcerating criminal non-citizens if they have policies prohibiting cooperation with federal immigration enforcement agents; and it would force the federal government to re-enter into 287(g) agreements with states and localities and provides states and localities with judicial review should an agreement be terminated. The amendment was rejected by voice vote.

  • Hirono amendment #22 (as amended). This amendment, the Child Trafficking Victims Protection Act, sets up special protections for apprehended unaccompanied alien minors. It was accepted by voice vote.

  • Grassley amendment #44 (as amended). This amendment makes conviction for three or more drunk driving offenses an aggravated felony, and therefore would make an immigrant removable. At least one of the convictions must be after the date of enactment of the bill. This amendment was approved in a 17 to 1 vote, with only Chairman Leahy opposing.

  • Blumenthal amendment #8 (as amended). This amendment would limit the authority of the government to press immigration enforcement actions in certain sensitive locations, such as hospitals, churches, schools and other locations. The amendment was adopted by voice vote.

  • Grassley amendment #27A. This amendment would strike section 3401 of the bill, which eliminates the one-year asylum deadline. It also strikes a section of the bill which allows for a grant of asylum by an asylum officer in certain circumstances at ports of entry. The amendment was defeated in a 6 to 12 vote.



Amendments to Title II

In the evening of May 20, the Committee moved on to consider amendments to the sections of the bill having to do with legalization and legal immigration. Approximately 100 amendments were filed relating to Title II. Not all of them were offered.

  • Grassley amendment #27B. This amendment would delete a provision that would waive grounds of ineligibility relating to frivolous asylum applications and failure to voluntarily depart for the purposes of applying for RPI status. It failed in a 9 to 9 vote.

  • Coons amendment #10 (as amended). This amendment prohibits the denial of business or professional licenses on the basis of immigration status for those who have work authorization. The amendment was adopted by voice vote.

  • Grassley amendment #11. This amendment would narrow the circumstances under which persons apprehended during the RPI application period may not be removed. It was rejected in a 6 to 12 vote.

  • Blumenthal amendment #12. This amendment provides a faster track to naturalization for Registered Provisional Immigrants who serve in the armed forces. It was adopted by voice vote.

  • Graham amendment #3 (as amended). This amendment permits additional screening for persons from certain countries or regions. It was adopted by voice vote.

  • Hirono amendment #21 (as amended). This amendment makes young people legalizing through the DREAM Act portion of the bill eligible for certain student loans, work study programs and other programs. It was adopted by voice vote.

  • Sessions amendment #16. This amendment would establish new triggers in the bill. Before DHS could begin processing applications for RPI status, the Secretary would have to certify that 1) the Southern Border Security Strategy had begun to be implemented, and 2) all applications would be filed electronically. It specifies various databases that must be checked and includes other fraud detection requirements. It was defeated in a 6 to 12 vote.

  • Cornyn amendment #3 (as amended). This amendment expands the list of crimes, including several misdemeanors, which would make a person ineligible for RPI status. It was rejected in a vote of 8 to 10.

  • Hirono amendment #12. This amendment would permit the RPI penalty fees to be paid in installments. It was adopted by voice vote.

  • Grassley amendment #18. This amendment would require RPI applicants to reveal all of the SSNs they may have used to obtain employment in the U.S. It was rejected in vote of 8 to 10.


On May 21, the committee resumed consideration of the amendments to Title II pertaining to the legalization program, and moved to other subtitles of the bill.

  • Sessions amendment #30. This amendment would amend the tax code to deny the Child Tax Credit to persons without a Social Security Number. It was defeated in an 8 to 10 vote.

  • Hirono amendment #28 (as amended). This amendment would specify certain information to be collected on the RPI application form. It was adopted by voice vote.

  • Grassley amendment #17. This amendment eliminates judicial review for persons denied temporary status as RPIs, blue card immigrants, and DACA recipients, except in the case of a constitutional challenge to provisions of the act or subsequent regulations, and the challenge may be brought only in the DC District Court. It was defeated in a vote of 6 to 12

  • Feinstein amendment #13. This amendment would allow funds from the grant program established in Section 2106 to be used to assist agricultural workers applying for blue card status. A second degree amendment had to do with dual intent on certain student visas. The amendment as amended was approved by voice vote.

  • Cornyn amendment #4 (as amended). This amendment would require the government to attempt to notify crime victims of certain persons applying for RPI status. It was adopted by voice vote.

  • Cornyn amendment #5. This amendment would strike confidentiality provisions included in the registration process for Registered Provisional Immigrant status. It failed in a 9 to 9 tie.

  • Lee amendment #10. This amendment would change the payment of tax requirement for RPI status to one that would be very difficult to prove, and would most likely prevent many potential applicants from applying. It was rejected by voice vote.

  • Lee amendment #8. This amendment would make persons who have absconded or persons who have returned illegally after deportation ineligible for RPI status. (The bill waives those grounds of inadmissibility unless the behavior occurred after the date of enactment.) It was rejected by voice vote.

  • Lee amendment #12. This amendment would remove sworn affidavits as an option for providing proof of employment when applying for RPI status. It was rejected by voice vote.

  • Cruz amendment #3 (as amended). This amendment would eliminate the path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. It was rejected by a vote of 5 to 13.

  • Cruz amendment #2. This amendment would permanently bar legalizing immigrants from means-tested public benefits, regardless of eventual citizenship status. This amendment was rejected in a 6 to 12 vote.

  • Flake amendment #4. This amendment requires regular audits to ensure that persons in RPI status are not accessing means-tested public benefits, and makes clear that anyone with RPI status who accesses mean-tested public benefits through fraud will have their status revoked. (The bill bars persons with RPI status from federal means-tested benefits.) It was adopted by voice vote.

  • Flake amendment #3 (as amended) and as further amendment by Sen. Schumer). This amendment as amended would require an additional background check at the stage of renewing RPI status and clarifies that "brief, casual, and innocent" departures from the U.S. would not break physical presence requirements. It was accepted by voice vote.

  • Hatch amendment #10 (as amended). This amendment was a compromise worked out with Senator Schumer, in an effort to obtain Senator Hatch's support for the bill, and pertains to the temporary worker section. The amendment: changes the formula used to calculate the cap on H-1B visas (allowing for more visas to be allocated in a given year); it changes the requirements placed on certain employers regarding the displacement of American workers; changes recruiting requirements for employers seeking H-1B nonimmigrants; and makes a number of other changes pertaining to the sections on temporary nonimmigrant workers. This amendment passed in a 16 to 2 vote.

  • Senator Grassley offered a number of second-degree amendments to the Hatch/Schumer amendment. His second-degree amendment #1 would toughen the recruitment requirement for employers, and was rejected in a 2 to 15 vote. Grassley's second-degree amendment #2 would require employers to show that no female U.S. worker in a STEM field was displaced within 180 days before or after filing an H-1B petition. This was rejected in a 3 to 15 vote. His second-degree amendment #3 would sunset provisions of the bill that would offer an unlimited number of visas to foreign students graduating from U.S. universities in the STEM fields if, by the end of 2018, there were fewer U.S. students graduating from those fields than on the date of enactment. It was rejected in a 2 to 16 vote. Finally, Grassley's second degree amendment #4 would require all employers to pay "level 2 wages" to H-1B hires, not just H-1B dependent employers. This amendment was rejected 3 to 15.

  • Whitehouse amendment #4.. This amendment would, among other things, allow government national laboratories to nominate persons for a conditional green card, which will allow for the beginning of the clearance process necessary for those positions. It was adopted by voice vote.

  • Grassley amendment #16. This amendment requires the Secretary of DHS to adjust for inflation the fees and penalties included in the legislation. It was adopted by voice vote.

  • Franken amendment #9. This amendment would clarify that certain battered immigrant women are eligible for HUD subsidized housing. It was adopted by voice vote.

  • Sessions amendment #2. This amendment, setting caps on legal immigration and work authorization, was withdrawn.

  • Coons amendment #3. This amendment would grant special immigrant status to surviving spouses and children of certain employees of the U.S. government killed in the line of duty abroad. It was adopted by voice vote.

  • Cornyn amendment #8 (as amended). This amendment would facilitate establishment of EB-5 (investor visa) regional centers in communities where there have been military base closures. It was accepted by voice vote.

  • Hirono amendment #1. This amendment would exempt the children of certain Filipino World War II veterans from immigration caps. It was accepted by voice vote.

  • Cruz amendment #4. This amendment would, among other things, increase employment-based immigration to more than 1 million, eliminate per-country caps, and reduce family-based immigration. It was rejected in a 6 to 12 vote.

  • Coons amendment #9 (as amended). This amendment sets requirements for DHS to contact employers and employees concerning non-confirmations and confirmations in the electronic worker verification system. It was adopted by voice vote.

  • Grassley amendment #19. This amendment (as modified) would require certain monitoring of immigration benefits fraud, and require annual reports from DHS. It was accepted by voice vote.

  • Hirono amendment #10. This amendment would allow for sibling immigration when a U.S. citizen otherwise would suffer extreme hardship. The underlying bill phases out the brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens family preference category. The amendment was rejected by a vote of 7 to 11.

  • Sessions amendment #15. This amendment would grant DHS ultimate power to grant a visa, regardless of any decision by a Department of State consular officer, and it would eliminate judicial review of a visa decision by DHS. It was rejected in a voice vote.

  • Hirono amendment #11. This amendment would require a GAO study of the merit-based immigration system seven years after date of enactment. The amendment was accepted by voice vote.

  • Klobuchar amendment #5 (as amended). This amendment pertains to requirements in a program to attract nonimmigrant doctors to underserved areas. It was adopted by voice vote.


The most dramatic moment came at the end of the debate, when Senator Leahy offered an amendment to grant same-sex couples immigration rights. The debate--heartfelt, sincere, and respectful--was conducted in a tone that is rare in a hyper-partisan era. Both Democrats and Republicans, regardless of their views on same-sex marriage, argued that the immigration bill was not the venue for attempting to resolve the issue of the rights of same-sex couples--it would lead to the breakup of the coalition supporting immigration reform. After hearing out his colleagues, Senator Leahy withdrew his amendment.

In concluding statements, Senators praised Senator Leahy's leadership, and noted this was the best markup process they have gone through. The final vote on the bill was 13 to 5. It next goes to the Senate floor, where it will be subject to further amendment. That process may begin the week of June 10.

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