US Senate approves immigration reform
Updated: 2013-06-29 08:03
By Joseph Boris in Washington (China Daily)
The United States Senate voted overwhelmingly on Thursday in favor of major changes to the country's immigration system, including the hope of citizenship to millions but also stepped-up security for the southern border with Mexico and new limits on family-based visas.
The 68-32 vote on the legislation, including 14 Republicans in favor, clears the way for action in the House of Representatives, which is widely expected to draft a bill from scratch and where political divisions make prospects for passage uncertain.
For the Asian American and Pacific Islander, or AAPI, community, a key goal of preserving immigration rules designed to keep families intact took a hit in the Senate bill.
In fact, it eliminates the F4 visa category, which allows siblings who are US citizens or legal permanent residents to sponsor their brothers' and sisters' immigration, and caps at 31 the age at which married sons or daughters are eligible for F3 visa sponsorship by a US parent.
Activists in the AAPI community also criticized the Senate bill's merit-based points system for giving preference to highly educated immigrants at the expense of lower-skilled workers, many of them women.
But most have expressed support for the bill, saying that the need to fix a "broken" US immigration system is too great to reject this historic legislation.
"We continue to be concerned about the impact the bill will have on immigrant families, if enacted," said Mee Moua, president of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, a Washington-based advocacy group. "The decision to severely limit the family-based immigration system is a dramatic shift away from our long-held American values. We look forward to working with all members of Congress to improve this bill for women and families by the time it reaches the president's desk."
A key member in the House debate, which could begin next week, is Representative Judy Chu, a Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.
It's currently working to draft parts of what may become a comprehensive bill for the full chamber to consider.
"Today is a landmark moment in the fight to fulfill America's promise as a nation of immigrants," Chu said in a statement.
"More than two-thirds of the Senate, from all reaches of the country and both ends of the political spectrum, answered the call for immigration reform that the American people made loud and clear in last year's election. In doing so, they also leveled a challenge for the House to follow suit."
She blasted Republicans in the House for an immigration strategy to "slow-walk and cherry-pick" potential legislation.
Senator Mazie Hirono, a Democrat from Hawaii, said she voted for the legislation on Thursday despite its flaws. Like Chu, she is the daughter of Asian immigrants and a member of CAPAC.
"This bill is not perfect, but it's a true compromise developed through a transparent and open process," Hirono said, applauding its path to citizenship for 11 million people now living in the US illegally as well as provisions to clear the family immigration backlog in the current system.
She urged her former House colleagues to pass a bill similar to the Senate's, which is unlikely.