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Policy Update: Immigration Reform Markup Day 2

May 15, 2013 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

On May 14, the Senate Judiciary Committee met to resume consideration of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. In all, 38 amendments were considered, with 24 being accepted. On the second day of markup, all amendments that would threaten the integrity of the compromise legislation were defeated. Following is a summary of the amendments considered.

Unfinished Business

The committee first considered some unfinished business from the pre-title section, Title I of the bill, and broad amendments affecting multiple titles.


  • Feinstein amendment #11 (as amended). This amendment would restrict Border Patrol operation of unmanned aerial drones over California to within three miles of the border. It was accepted by voice vote.

  • Coons amendment #2 (as amended). This amendment has to do with limiting certain deportation practices, and requires reports related to deportation. It was accepted by voice vote.

  • Schumer amendment #1. This amendment made a number of technical corrections throughout the bill, and was accepted by voice vote.

  • Sessions amendment #4. This amendment established a new trigger—that a biometric entry/exit system would have to be implemented before Registered Provisional Immigrants could adjust to permanent status. It was rejected by a vote of 6 to 12.

  • Senator Lee withdrew three of his amendments: amendment #1, to replace the legislation with a short bill on border security; amendment#2, to replace the legislation with an E-Verify bill; and amendment #3, replacing the legislation with a bill focusing on the immigration of high-skilled workers and STEM education.


Next, Senator Sessions offered an amendment to set new levels of immigration in the future.

Sessions amendment #1 would replace the legislation’s proposed legal immigration system by striking sections 2301 and section 2302 (establishing the merit-based point system); section 2304 (setting new worldwide levels of immigration and providing for the “re-capture” of unused visas); section 2305 (reclassifying spouses and children of permanent residents as “immediate relatives” and making other adjustments in the immigration system); and section 2307 (setting new visa levels in the family and employment preference categories).

Instead, the Sessions amendment would eliminate the current “immediate relative” category, that allows spouses, minor children and parents of U.S. citizens to enter above the worldwide annual cap on immigrant visas; it would eliminate current family preference categories for siblings of U.S. citizens, adult unmarried children of U.S. citizens, adult married children of U.S. citizens, and unmarried adult children of legal permanent residents. In addition, parents of U.S. citizens, currently in the “immediate relatives” category, would no longer be allocated immigrant visas. A new worldwide cap of 1.2 million visas would include children and spouses of citizens and LPRs, refugees and asylum seekers, and immigrants coming through a merit system that allocates points for certain types of occupations, employer endorsement, employment experience, age, education, English ability, and certain family relationships.

The amendment also caps the number of work authorizations that may be allocated in a year.

The amendment was an immigration restrictionist’s dream, and Senator Sessions spoke at length about it, but in the end, he was the only one to vote for it. With 17 opposed, the amendment was not accepted.

Title IV Amendments

Senators next turned to consideration of amendments to Title IV, concerning the nonimmigrant provisions in the legislation.

  • Whitehouse amendment #6 (as amended). This amendment would require the establishment of a toll-free hotline and website for H-1B workers to file complaints against their employers. The amendment was accepted by voice vote.

  • Grassley amendment #58. This amendment would require employers to include additional information in the internet posting of jobs required by the legislation before employers may hire nonimmigrant workers for the position. It was accepted by voice vote.

  • Hatch amendment #9 (as amended). This amendment increases the labor certification fee and allocates funding from the collected fee to education programs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). It was accepted by voice vote.

  • Grassley amendment #67. This amendment would require an audit of at least 1 percent of companies that hire H-1B workers annually. It was rejected by a vote of 2 to 15, with one abstention.

  • Cruz amendment #5. This amendment would increase the number of H-1B temporary nonimmigrant visas over the numbers set in the legislation, eliminate worker protections included in the legislation, increase the H-1B fee imposed on employers, and make other changes to the sections pertaining to H-1B nonimmigrant workers. It was rejected in a 4 to 14 vote.

  • Grassley amendment #60. This amendment would tighten requirements on employers hiring H-1B nonimmigrant workers. It was rejected by a vote of 2 to 15, with one abstention.

  • Grassley amendment #62. This amendment would make changes to the definition of H-1B-dependent employers, and was rejected by a vote of 2 to 15, with one abstention.

  • Grassley amdendment #56. This amendment would delete authority for the Secretary of State to waive in-person consular interviews for low-risk applicants. It failed on a tie 9 to 9 vote.

  • Schumer amendment #3. This amendment provides additional opportunities for certain persons from Africa and the Caribbean to obtain nonimmigrant temporary work visas. It was adopted by voice vote.

  • Grassley amendment #70. This amendment would delay implementation of allotting free trade-related visas to nationals of the Republic of Korea until Korea lifts restrictions on the importation of U.S. beef. It was rejected by voice vote.

  • Klobuchar amendment #3. This amendment would require a pilot program to conduct interviews for certain nonimmigrant visas by remote video conferencing, to test the feasibility of this method for reducing backlogs in visa interviews. It was adopted by voice vote.

  • Sessions amendment #13 (as amended). This amendment would require in-person visa interviews for certain persons who the government determines may be security risks. A second-degree amendment by Sen. Schumer would give consular officers access to all terrorism databases. The amendment was approved by a vote of 10 to 8.

  • Blumenthal amendment #17. This amendment concerns whistleblower protections for H-2B nonimmigrant workers, and was withdrawn for further modification.

  • Hirono amendment #15. This amendment would extend Medicaid coverage to persons lawfully residing in the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau. It was accepted by voice vote.

  • Grassley amendment #69 (as amended). This amendment tightens requirements associated with the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. It was accepted by voice vote.

  • Schumer amendment #4 (as amended). This amendment would expand the J exchange visitor visa program to include persons with certain specialized language expertise. The amendment was accepted by voice vote.

  • Sessions amendment #6. This amendment would make changes to the visa waiver program made by the legislation contingent upon the full implementation of a biometric entry and exit system. It was rejected by a vote of 6 to 12.

  • Klobuchar amendment #1. This amendment, providing immigration benefits for certain abused spouses and children, was accepted by voice vote.

  • Grassley amendment #77. This amendment would require data from the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System to be shared with databases used by Customs and Border Protection. If this sharing of information is not accomplished by 120 days after enactment, F and M student visa issuance would be suspended. It was accepted by voice vote.

  • Hirono amendment #2 (as amended). This amendment pertains to allowing alien crewmembers to land temporarily in Hawaii, and was approved by voice vote.

  • Grassley amendment #68. This amendment would delay implementation of the dual intent provisions of the bill for F student visas until one year after the full implementation of the second generation of the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. The amendment failed in a tie vote 9 to 9.


On May 16, the committee will finish up with amendments to Title IV, and then turn its attention to amendments to Title III, the interior enforcement provisions.


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