The bill, SB 744, passed the Democratic-controlled Senate 68-32 on Thursday. But it’s still a long ways from becoming the law of the land.
The House, which is led by Republicans, will not hold a vote on the bill, said Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
“We’re going to do our own bill through regular order, and it’ll be legislation that reflects the will of our majority and the will of the American people,” Boehner said after the Senate acted. “And for any legislation, including a (final bill), to pass the House, it’s going to have to be a bill that has the support of the majority of our members.”
The Senate bill would offer a 13-year “path to citizenship” for the 11 million immigrants living illegally in the USA. It would also ensure tougher border security is in place before the immigrants can gain legal status.
Enzi and Barrasso, both Republicans, offered a joint statement on their votes on the bill. They said they continue to support immigration reform, but not this bill.
It received the support of all 52 Democratic senators, both independents in the Senate, and 14 Republican senators, including Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who also spoke out in favor of the bill.
Under the Senate bill, the federal government would invest $30 billion on the Border Patrol, doubling the number of agents to nearly 40,000 agents while another $8 billion would be dedicated to drones, helicopters, airplanes and high-tech devices to monitor the Mexican-American border.
But the Wyoming senators said this plan will not meet the challenge of tightening the border.
“We can all agree that our immigration system needs to be fixed, but this bill fails to address too many key issues for me to support it,” Enzi said. “In order for immigration reform to work, we must have a strong, workable employment verification system in place. If we can ensure that only legal job seekers gain employment in this country, then we remove the incentive for illegal immigration.
“The bill also fails to prevent non-citizens from receiving welfare and tax benefits and fails to fully address border security and border enforcement,” he said. “Had more amendments been allowed, and if we had addressed the underlying issues individually, we could have made some commonsense changes that would have allowed everyone’s voice to be heard. Our constituents didn’t send us to Washington to get something done quickly, they sent us here to get it right.”
Barrasso said he is voting based on what his constituents told him.
“Throughout the past month, I’ve traveled Wyoming and listened to a wide range of opinions about our immigration system,” he said. “Like most people in Wyoming, I agree that we need to fix our broken immigration system — and that this bill isn’t the right answer. In its current form, the bill fails to secure our border and also provides very expensive benefits to people here illegally.
“I voted no today because I know that we don’t need another massive, flawed law that won’t fix the problem,” Barrasso said.