The bipartisan U.S. Senate "Gang of Eight" and their proposal on immigration reform could face a tough test after dozens of amendments were filed to the bill Tuesday. (Photo : Reuters)
A flurry of potentially impactful amendment requests to the proposed immigration bill from the bipartisan U.S. Senate panel were filed on Tuesday.
With the Senate Judiciary Committee set for a hearing on Thursday regarding the highly-debated immigration reform bill, the amendments have the potential to make some sweeping changes in the legislation.
According to the Washington Post, roughly two-thirds of the 301 proposals submitted in the Senate regarding the bill came from Republicans. Among the measures were amendments that would grant Congress more authority over the security of the U.S.-Mexico border, make undocumented immigrants submit DNA samples prior to them obtaining legal status, and cut down on the number of undocumented workers eligible to gain citizenship.
According to Yahoo! News, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., submitted the amendment calling for a limit on the number of immigrants obtaining legal status, while Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, submitted 77 amendments, the Associated Press reports, including tightening the requirements needed for immigrants to gain citizenship and requiring an electronic verification system that would be created faster than the original bill calls for.
However, in a sign that there could be extensive debate over the proposed amendments, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, submitted a proposed amendment that would significantly boost up the number of new low-skilled workers under the bill.
While some Republican legislators are calling for the debate on immigration to take as much time as needed, pro-immigration advocates are worried that the process could derail the tentative agreement between the bipartisan panel on immigration, if not the chances of the bill to move forward altogether.
"This debate should be thoughtful and thorough. It will be arduous, and it ought to be deliberate," said Sen. Grassley. "Legislation of this magnitude should be carefully considered and the consequences thought through, and I expect a robust debate."
Immigration groups, however, feel differently.
"The intent seems to be to upset the careful bipartisan balance negotiated by the Gang of Eight in hopes of sinking the bill," Frank Sharry of America's Voice, a pro-immigrant group, told Yahoo! News. "The good news is this: If the pro-reform Republicans and Democrats on the committee hang together they should be able to stave off the attacks by opponents."
While the Senate Judiciary Committee has four of the eight bipartisan panel members on-board, each planning to vote together to ward off any "poison pill" amendments that could derail their legislation proposal, pitfalls are all around, including a proposal from Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., that calls for extending immigration rights to gay citizens and permanent residents allowing for them.
Legislators have been divided on the issue, with some Republicans balking at the idea.
"Whatever bill makes it to the president's desk will be different than the one we see now, and I think it will move significantly to the right," Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy analyst with the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, told the Post.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., one of the key members of the bipartisan panel, issued a statement thanking legislators for sending in their amendments.
"For members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, this is their first chance to make a good-faith effort to improve the bill. I look forward to working with them throughout this process to ultimately fix our broken immigration system and ensure we never repeat today's broken mess again," he stated.