The Immigration Bill is out of Committee, what does that mean and why does it matter?

Posted by on May 23, 2013.

With its 13-5 vote to support comprehensive immigration reform yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee took a crucial step forward to growing a knowledge economy. This comprehensive bipartisan legislation contains the key principles we support, and the Committee’s favorable action on the bill moves us one step closer to enactment.

So why did legislation first have to be voted out of committee, and why has it not yet come to a vote by the full Senate? In the case of comprehensive immigration reform, the Senate Judiciary Committee functions as what's known as the "committee of jurisdiction" - i.e., the particular committee with authority over a piece of legislation based on its subject matter. In this case, the Committee held numerous hearings on the so-called "Gang of Eight" bill. Senate Judiciary has oversight of legislation generally pertaining to immigration and naturalization policy, among many other issues. The Gang of Eight is comprised of a bipartisan group of Senators – 4 Democrats and 4 Republicans – who have been working together across the aisle to draft the legislation considered by the committee.

The Judiciary Committee's vote yesterday concludes nearly two weeks of “marking up” the Gang of Eight's original bipartisan bill – through this process, the committee considered more than 300 amendments dealing with all facets of the legislation, with votes taken on many of them. The amended bill now goes to the full Senate for further debate and consideration, which is expected to begin next month. It's worth noting that relatively few bills make it this far in the legislative process, and even fewer do so with genuine bipartisan support.

There is broad agreement across the political spectrum that our nation's immigration system is broken and not working for a modern American economy. Here's a look at the commonsense principles we're encouraged to see in the legislation that has been voted out of the Judiciary Committee:

- Tough, effective border security measures, including providing law enforcement the tools needed to secure the border; · A simple and effective employment verification system to ensure that employers play by the rules, and to crack down on those who abuse the law;

- Modifications to the new worker program to include an increase in the number of H-1B visas to attract the world’s best and the brightest workers, while implementing reforms that encourage this talent to reside permanently in the U.S.;

- Establishing a pathway to citizenship for immigrants currently living in the United States who do not have legal status; and

- Reforming the legal immigration system to better strengthen the American economy and American families.

While we know there's a long road ahead to achieving comprehensive reform that will fix our country's broken, archaic immigration system, it's important to keep in mind that the Judiciary Committee’s vote represents one of the most significant milestones in many years.

While our work – and yours – isn't close to done, it's a very encouraging sign that the full Senate will now consider this vitally important bipartisan bill.

It’s clear that the momentum continues to build in favor of commonsense immigration legislation – and will continue to advocate for comprehensive, bipartisan reform that will attract innovators, build prosperous neighborhoods with strong families and good jobs, and ensure the U.S. continues to lead the world in the growth of the knowledge economy.

I hope you will join us in saying "thank you" to the Senators who voted for this important legislation by signing our petition.

Thank the Senate Judiciary Committee

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