The most far-reaching overhaul of the nation’s immigration system in a generation has emerged mostly unscathed from the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill’s bipartisan sponsors showed that, even in Washington, the center can sometimes hold. Though the legislation, all 800-odd pages of it, contains provisions that pained Democrat and Republican backers alike, they gritted their teeth and voted it out of committee and onto the Senate floor.
The Senate committee’s handling of more than 200 amendments — many of them designed to gut, cripple or poison the original legislation — was a model of big-picture problem-solving trumping ideology and partisan grandstanding.
The bill’s bipartisan backers were just as resolute in opposing amendments that would have been unpalatable to many Republicans. Chief among these was a proposal by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., the committee chairman, to allow gay Americans to sponsor their foreign-born spouses for green cards.
That provision would have made the bill fairer and more humane; it would also have cost the support of key Republican senators, including Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, one of the bill’s authors.
The bill retains plenty of flaws, some of them major. Tens of thousands of migrants who have entered the country since 2011 would remain in the shadows, ineligible for legal status, owing to an unrealistic cutoff date. An artificially low limit on visas for low-skilled workers, especially in the construction industry, could create an incentive for ongoing illegal immigration.
Still, the legislation would reshape the nation’s broken-down, irrational immigration system in ways that would bear fruit for decades. After years of denial, it would recognize the nation’s competitive need for foreign workers in high-tech, agriculture and low-skilled occupations while retaining preferences for family reunification.
Here’s hoping that the House takes cues from the upper chamber.
The Washington Post (May 23)