Senate panel approves immigration bill

WASHINGTON Tue May 21, 2013 7:58pm EDT

Candidates hold U.S. flags during a naturalization ceremony to become new U.S. Citizens at Convention Center in Los Angeles, California February 27, 2013. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Candidates hold U.S. flags during a naturalization ceremony to become new U.S. Citizens at Convention Center in Los Angeles, California February 27, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday approved legislation that would bring about the biggest changes in U.S. immigration policy in a generation, setting up a spirited debate in the full Senate next month.

By a vote of 13-5, the panel approved the nearly 900-page bill that would put 11 million illegal residents on a 13-year path to citizenship while further strengthening security along the southwestern border with Mexico, long a sieve for illegal crossings.

The vote followed the committee's decision to embrace a Republican move to ease restrictions on high-tech U.S. companies that want to hire more skilled workers from countries like India and China.

In a dramatic move just before the vote, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, withdrew an amendment to give people the right to sponsor same-sex partners who are foreigners for permanent legal status.

Leahy's colleagues on the committee - Republicans and Democrats - warned that the amendment would kill the legislation in Congress. Democrats generally favor providing equal treatment for heterosexual and homosexual couples, while many Republicans oppose doing so.

"I'm committed to ending that discrimination," Leahy said before withdrawing the amendment.

Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah said the changes made to visa rules governing high-skilled workers, which he had demanded on behalf of the U.S. technology industry, were the price of his support for the bill when the committee took its final vote.

In another encouraging sign for the legislation, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said he will not block the measure from coming to the floor for a full debate.

McConnell did not say how he ultimately would vote on the bill, but he told reporters that the changes won by Hatch "has made a substantial contribution to moving the issue forward."

All of the core elements of the legislation have been maintained after five long work sessions by the bipartisan group, and some border security provisions critical to conservatives and border-state members of Congress have been strengthened.

(Additional reporting by Sarah McBride. Writing by Richard Cowan; Editing by Xavier Briand and Paul Simao)

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Comments (16)
TheNewWorld wrote:
Fingerprinting seems a bit out dated when we have technology for facial recognition that can do it on the fly discreetly.

May 20, 2013 10:54pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Assur wrote:
Facial recognition would leave too many open doors to abuse the system. I’m not saying that it would be abused however, just because there are those doors people would immediately pounce on it and scream police state and big brother.

May 20, 2013 12:22am EDT  --  Report as abuse
74LS08 wrote:
…”Meanwhile, senators were working behind the scenes on a controversial move to reduce the steps high-tech companies would have to take before hiring foreign workers.”
How about requiring H-1B visa applicants take an English and professional proficiency exams before granting them right for work in the States?
This will definitely cut down on fake Hi-Tech store fronts that make money in their home counties (mostly India) by charging thousands of dollars those who want to come to the US and pretend to be qualified for doing high tech work.
Write to your representative if you are tired of all these ignoramuses who pollute the Silicon Valley.

May 20, 2013 12:32am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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