Blog & Updates
Policy Update: Senate Committee Completes Round 1 of Immigration Reform Markup
May 10, 2013 - Posted by Maurice Belanger
On May 9, the Senate Judiciary Committee began considering amendments to the comprehensive immigration reform bill, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, S. 744. By the May 7 deadline set by committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), approximately 300 amendments had been filed by members of the committee.
After opening statements by several senators, the committee got down to work, examining the beginning of the bill, having to do with legalization "triggers," and Title I, having to do with border enforcement.
The first amendment that was considered was the sponsors' amendment that had been introduced the previous week. This amendment replaced the entire bill as introduced, making a number of technical changes and corrections. That amendment was accepted by the Committee in a roll call vote of 14 to 4.
The committee next considered a block of 11 amendments that were not controversial among members of the committee. Those amendments were:
- Leahy amendment #1. This amendment would prohibit the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from collecting a border crossing fee, or to conduct studies about the implementation of a border crossing fee. Senator Leahy argued that a border crossing fee would place a considerable burden on tourism and commerce.
- Grassley amendment #2. This amendment makes changes relating to the congressional committees to which DHS must submit various reports specified in the bill.
- Grassley amendment #5. This amendment requires an audit of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Trust Fund set up by the legislation.
- Cornyn amendment #6. This amendment has to do with data and reporting on human trafficking, and the criminal classification of human trafficking.
- Sessions amendment #36. This amendment expands the responsibilities of the DHS Office of Inspector General to include providing assistance to victims of violence by non-citizens in the border areas.
- Flake amendment #1. This amendment would require representation by private landowners in the Border Oversight Task Force set up by the legislation.
- Flake amendment #2. This amendment would require an annual GAO report on the progress of the Southern Border Security Strategy (mandated by the bill).
- Feinstein amendment #6. This amendment would require the Department of Homeland Security to develop standards for the custody of children.
- Feinstein amendment #7. This amendment would require competitive granting for Operation Stonegarden.
- Feinstein amendment #8. This amendment requires the deployment of watercraft by the Border Patrol.
- Hirono amendment #24 (modified by the deletion of paragraphs four and seven). This amendment sets up an Ombudsman's office within DHS to focus solely on immigration issues, substituting section 1114 of the bill.
The block of amendments was approved by voice vote.
Other amendments considered by the committee on May 9:
- Grassley amendment #4. This amendment would require the Secretary of DHS to certify there is effective control over the border for six months before any processing of applications for Registered Provisional Immigrant status. The amendment was rejected by a vote of 6 to 12. In arguing against the amendment, Senator Flake (R-Ariz.) pointed out that it would not be a good idea to delay having undocumented immigrants come forward, making themselves known to the government, and getting their background checks. Grassley's amendment would cause that delay.
- Schumer amendment #2. This amendment would allocate additional funding for startup costs for various programs established by the bill. Costs would be repaid to the Treasury through fees and fines. The amendment passed by a vote of 14 to 4.
- Lee amendment #4. This amendment would set up fast track procedures for Congressional approval of certification by the DHS Secretary that border security strategies have been implemented. The amendment would have violated the compromise, and was rejected 6 to 12.
- Grassley amendment #1. This amendment would strike reference in the bill to "high risk" sectors of the borders, so that border metrics set out in the bill will apply to all border sectors, not just "high risk" sectors. This amendment was adopted by voice vote.
- Grassley amendment #24. This amendment would add accountability language to grant programs authorized by the bill. It was agreed to by voice vote.
- Feinstein amendment #9. This amendment would expand the range of costs for which the federal government must reimburse states and localities in immigration-related prosecutions. This amendment was accepted by voice vote.
- Sessions amendment #37. This amendment would delete a provision in the bill requiring DHS to develop a use of force policy. The amendment was rejected 7 to 11.
- Coons amendment #2. This amendment, meant to prevent DHS from deporting persons to areas of the border that are dangerous, was withdrawn.
- Blumenthal amendment #10. This amendment would bar the federal government from reimbursing states or localities for the prosecution and related costs of non-citizens in certain circumstances. This was adopted by voice vote.
- Cruz amendment #1. This amendment would replace Title I of the bill, dealing with border enforcement, with a new Title I that would, among other things, require the tripling of the number of Border Patrol agents and require similar increases in other border enforcement resources. Registration for Provisional Immigrant Status would be contingent upon accomplishing all of the goals set out by the amendment. The amendment did not say, specifically, how such a massive increase in resources would be paid for. It was rejected 5 to 13.
- Hirono amendment #23. This amendment would require DHS to give special consideration to family unity in making decisions about removal or referral for prosecution of individuals apprehended at the border. This amendment passed 10 to 8.
- Sessions amendment #38. This amendment would delete a part of the bill requiring training for Customs and Border Protection and Border Patrol personnel. It was withdrawn.
- Feinstein amendment #11. This amendment would narrow the width of the "Southwest Border Region," as defined in the bill, from 100 miles to 25 miles. It was withdrawn.
- Feinstein amendment #1. This amendment would reauthorize and expand the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, by which states are reimbursed for costs incurred incarcerating non-citizens. This amendment was adopted in a vote of 10 to 8.
- Feinstein amendment #10. This amendment would establish a grant program for border infrastructure improvements. It was adopted.
- Leahy amendment #4. This amendment clarifies that resources deployed pursuant to the Southern Border Fencing Strategy are to be deployed on the southern border. It was adopted by voice vote.
- Sessions amendment #9. This amendment would require 700 miles of double-layer fencing be substantially completed before immigrants in RPI status could adjust. The amendment was rejected, by a vote of 6 to 12, as it would have violated the compromise.
- Cornyn amendment #1. This amendment would re-write Title I of the bill so that more resources would be deployed to the southern border, including the addition of 5,000 additional Border Patrol agents, and it would make the trigger goals much more difficult to meet. It was rejected by a vote of 6 to 12.
- Feinstein amendment #2. This amendment would provide additional district court judges in southwestern states. The amendment was accepted by voice vote.
- Sessions amendment #11. This amendment would change the border trigger so that DHS would have to accomplish "effective control" of the border as defined in the Secure Fence Act (which essentially requires zero illegal border crossings, an unattainable goal). The amendment, striking at the heart of the compromise, was rejected by a vote of 6 to 12.
- Cornyn amendment #2. This amendment would deploy more resources to ports of entry, including an additional 5,000 Customs and Border Protection agents. The amendment was withdrawn.
The committee completed amendments to Title I. By the end of the first day, many amendments had been accepted, but all of the amendments that would potentially unravel the compromise worked out among the senate negotiators who drafted the bill were rejected.
On Tuesday, May 14, the committee will resume consideration of amendments on Title IV, covering nonimmigrant temporary worker programs. The committee will meet next week on Tuesday and Thursday, and the following week as often as it needs to to complete its work.
You can find all of the amendments filed for this bill here: