Senate Judiciary Committing Makes Progress

The Senate Judiciary Committee has been mulling over immigration reform proposals for the last several days.  So far, some of the amendments which have been approved include:

Approved Amendments

  • An increase from $100 million to $1 billion allotted to implement proposed reform.
  • A ban on crossing fees for those entering the United States by land at either of the country’s two borders.
  • The creation of the office of Immigration Ombudsman within the Department of Homeland Security that would be given authority to help those who are victims of crimes perpetrated by immigrants or temporary residents.
  • An increase in the number of members on the Department of Homeland Security’s Border Oversight Task Force from 26 to 29, with the three additional seats to be occupied by private landowners.
  • The providing of health care, adequate nutrition, clothes, bedding, and personal hygiene products for children in Customs and Border Protection custody.
  • The use of the Coast Guard in border related, maritime law enforcement.
  • No reimbursement for immigration related prosecutions and detentions by the federal government to state and local governments when those jurisdictions engage in unlawful immigration enforcement conduct.
  • The requirement that border agents ask those in their custody if they are traveling with spouses, children or parents.  This amendment is intended to keep families together through immigration questioning and processing.
  • The establishment of a grant program to improve current border infrastructure.
  • A ban on the use of aerial drones in immigration operations that extend beyond three miles from the border.
  • A ban on the Department of Homeland Security from deporting immigrants into areas considered “high risk” and “dangerous” on the border.
  • The implementation of in person interviews for visa applicants from countries that pose “special security concerns” and for individuals who are red-flagged as persons of potential concern.

What the Amendments Mean

The amendments that have been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee impact just about every aspect of American immigration, but these amendments still have a long way to go before becoming law and the ones listed above are just a few of the total which have been approved.

Immigration reform in the U.S. is still in its early stages – after the Senate Judiciary Committee agrees on all of the amendments to include or exclude from the bill, then the bill can be voted on by the whole of the Senate.  After being approved by the Senate, the bill will have to be approved by the House of Representatives, which is free to adopt the bill as written or to come up with its own version which, after written and passed, would be consolidated with the Senate’s bill.

After both chambers of Congress can agree on a single bill, then the bill can be voted on.  If the bill is passed, then it goes to the President who can sign the bill into law or veto / refuse to sign the bill.  If the President doesn’t sign the bill, it is sent back to Congress where, if the bill gets a 2/3 majority vote, then it can become law without the President’s consent.

Overall, this means that the proposals and amendments presented are not yet law, and should not be perceived as law until it is announced that the implementation of these proposals is final.