immigration reformTasked with writing a comprehensive bill to overhaul America’s immigration system, the Senate Judiciary Committee is steadily – and line by line – building a bill that Congress can vote on.  In recent negotiations, legislation in the bill was approved that was directly inspired by the Boston bombing which targeted the 2013 Boston Marathon.

The language in the bill, which was unanimously approved by the committee, requires the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to transfer student visa information in real time to U.S. Customs and Border Protection points of entry.  The legislation was inspired by the fact that one of the individuals who has been charged as an accomplice in the bombing plot was holding a nullified student visa.  The visa was nullified when he failed to register for school, but he was allowed to enter the country because Customs and Border Protection agents at the port of entry where he entered did not have access to the Department of Homeland Security’s information database which would have reflected his failure to register as a student.

Border Security a Primary Focus

The Senate Judiciary Committee is building a comprehensive immigration reform bill based in large part on recommendations from the group of Senators formerly known as “The Gang of Eight”.  This team of U.S. Senators drafted proposals for legislation that would have allowed immigrants in the country illegally to remain in the country and apply for provisional residency status assuming they could pass a background check and pay certain fines.  The proposals also offered provisional residency to illegal immigrants employed in certain industries, like the agricultural industry, and to illegal immigrants who were brought to the country as children.

So far, the primary focus of the Senate Judiciary Committee appears to be strengthening the border, with many provisions that would strengthen the border already being voted on and approved.  While many immigrants in the U.S. are anxious to see how the committee will vote on the provisional residency proposals made by the Gang of Eight, the committee has made little progress in approving provisional residency for certain classes of illegal immigrants.

Immigration Reform: A Long Road Ahead

The Senate is making clear progress on coming up with a comprehensive immigration reform bill, but there’s still a long way to go before actual changes take effect.  Once the bill is completely drafted by the Senate Judiciary Committee, then it can be voted on by the Senate.  If the Senate passes the bill, then the bill can proceed to the House of Representatives, for another vote.  At this point, there is nothing stopping the House from drafting its own bill which, if passed, would need to be consolidated and reconciled with the Senate’s bill.  When both chambers of Congress agree on a bill, it is submitted for a full Congressional vote.

If the bill passes in both houses, the President will need to sign it into law, which the President may refuse to do, resulting in another Congressional vote.  If the bill is approved with a 2/3rd majority, the it can be passed into law without the consent of the President.

To say the least, there’s no telling how long it can take for comprehensive immigration reform to pass.  Until it does, immigrants are subject to the laws as they currently stand regarding immigration.