After months of work, the Senate on Thursday approved its version of a comprehensive immigration bill. If it becomes law, U.S. immigration policy would see the most sweeping changes since 1986.
Known as the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013,” the bill provides a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people in the country and approves at least $38 billion in increased security along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Legislative attention now shifts to the U.S. House of Representatives. Here is reaction to the Senate passage from community groups and individuals:
Stewart Kwoh, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Los Angeles:
“Spending billions of taxpayer dollars on border enforcement when the border is already secure is a tragic mistake. These funds would be better invested in America’s infrastructure – education, roads, bridges, and technological innovation. It is not too late – Congress still can and should enact genuine immigration reform that protects the human right of all immigrant families to be with their loved ones and that strengthens the future of the United States as a nation that truly welcomes all immigrants.”
Rev. Angie Wright, chair of the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice:
“The Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice recognizes that today is a major step toward a road map to citizenship for millions of aspiring Americans living in this country. Many of our members are hopeful that this legislation will bring their families out of the shadows and allow them to continue contributing to Alabama’s economy and community.
However, the massive build-up at the Southern border proposed in this bill will have serious ramifications for border communities and American taxpayers.”
Adriana Jasso from the San Diego program of the American Friends Service Committee:
“The Senate bill makes it possible for some share of undocumented people currently living in the U.S. to embark on a path toward legalization. But it would not end the current cruel, costly and inefficient system of detention and deportation, and it provides for astounding investments in the border militarization industrial complex – meaning billions for defense contractors and continuing crises for people on both sides of the border.”
Border Network for Human Rights (Texas):
“For the more than six million people who live in border American communities between San Diego, California and Brownsville, Texas, S. 744 is a promise of abuse, violation and death. Our cities will be occupied by 40,000 armed federal personnel, new Black Hawk helicopters, 18 border drones, more than 700 miles of fencing and wall, hundreds of watch towers, sensors and other military technology in an era where Border Patrol is already the largest para-military force in the U.S.”
Casa Latina (Washington state):
“We are happy that the immigrant workers who take care of our houses, our loved ones and our gardens may finally have the chance to get on a path to citizenship. However, we are concerned that if the recently passed Senate bill becomes law, the steady employment requirement will force a good many of the families who depend on day labor and domestic work back into the shadows and the underground economy.”
Angelica Salas, executive director for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles:
“A most historic final vote…means that millions of aspiring citizens are closer than ever to emerging from the cruel and suffocating mantle of undocumented immigrant status.
Despite the rigor and Herculean requirements in the bill, today millions of hard-working immigrant families who have waited for more than a decade will raise their hand and stand recognized for their contributions and sacrifices to the land they now call home.
S. 744 is a negotiated bill and not perfect by far… This effort is not over…To paraphrase Dr. King, we stand with great determination, ready to move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be.”
Rosalinda Guillen, executive director of Community to Community Development (Washington state):
“We have a growing sense of apprehension with the direction this bill is taking immigration reform. As supporters of the Dignity Campaign we see very little of human rights and dignity in this bill.”
Isabel Rubio, executive director of Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama:
“While we are encouraged by the Senate’s passage of the immigration reform bill, we are saddened that the tone in today’s conversation on comprehensive immigration has shifted from uniting families to border militarization.
We remain hopeful about the potential to stop the unfair deportation of many of hard-working families in our community and to give people the opportunity to achieve their dreams and continue to contribute to our nation. As a country, we need comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship now, and we hope that the House of Representatives passes the Senate version of the bill so that President Obama can sign it into law and we can bring justice to families.”
Lawrence Benito, chief executive of Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights:
“While Hoeven-Corker (border security amendment) has been an extremely high price to pay for a path to citizenship, the core of this bill will still ensure that our families will not be hurt through deportation and separation and will thrive and contribute to our nation.
We would like to recognize the hard work of our ally and champion Senator Richard Durbin for his leadership to ensure that our immigrant families have a real opportunity to achieve the American dream. We also thank Senator Mark Kirk for recognizing the need for a path to citizenship and supporting this legislation.”
“We have been working for immigration reform for 30 years. But the Senate bill passed today treats our rights and the lives of people crossing the border as expendable. Senator Cornyn took the lead and Senate Democrats followed. In the House we have to fight extra hard for our lives and rights. We hope our congressmen continue to fight with bravery alongside our communities.”
Kathryn Lohre, president of National Council of Churches:
“We continue to pray for and with all of God’s children whose lives hang in the balance until our broken system is repaired and restored and to advocate for just laws, policies, and practices that support human dignity and the integrity of families. As Paul reminds us in Romans 15:5 we are to ‘welcome one another, just as Christ has welcomed you, to the glory of God.’ As ambassadors of Jesus’ radical welcome, we stand firm in our hope that the time for reform has arrived.”
Dae Joong Yoon, executive director of National Korean American Service & Education Consortium:
“The Senate bill has important provisions to provide a roadmap to citizenship for new Americans and reduce the family immigration backlogs. But there is also the damaging provision of wasting billions of taxpayer dollars to militarize the borders and devastate the environment and the lives of border communities. We are also disappointed that there are additional hurdles for new Americans seeking to become citizens and that the ability to sponsor siblings and adult children has been taken away.”
George Goehl, executive director of National People’s Action:
“Our country deserves an immigration system that puts people and families first, before corporate greed. The path to citizenship in this bill is long and onerous and the boarder security measures are a giant give away to private contractors.”
Ben de Guzman, a co-director of National Queer Asian Pacific Alliance:
“We have always pushed for a bill that has the broadest definition of family to best capture the reality of how diverse American families are today. Unfortunately, the fundamental changes this bill creates to the current family immigration system undermine the foundational value of keeping families together that has been the hallmark for decades and squandered the opportunity to include LGBT same-sex binational couples.”
Rich Stolz, executive director of OneAmerica (Washington state):
“OneAmerica thanks both Senators Murray and Cantwell for casting historic votes to help fix our country’s broken immigration system and provide a path to citizenship for 11 million aspiring Americans. This bill has its flaws. Our economy and our Constitution can ill afford the financial and human costs of such a massive border surge. We will work vigorously to change these provisions before this bill becomes law in order to protect Washington’s border communities.
However, the path to citizenship—the heart of this bill—is largely intact and will provide relief for millions of immigrant families around the country. We will be calling on our Congressional delegation to fight for families and Washington values by making a pathway to citizenship a reality.”
Nora Realzola, a Promise Arizona organizer and a “deferred action” recipient:
“I’m moved beyond words, because I know that as a DREAMer that I may finally have a chance to become a U.S. citizen and work to keep my family together. I’m hopeful the House will now do everything it can to pass humane immigration reform, because I look forward to the day when I can vote and help determine the future of the only country where I’ve ever wanted to live.”
Petra Falcon, executive director of Promise Arizona:
“The path to citizenship is the heart of this bill, and because that remains largely intact and will provide relief for millions of immigrant families around the country, Promise Arizona supports the passage of this bill.
…This is not the bill we would have crafted. Sending another 20,000 agents on top of the 20,000 already there is a massive, costly build-up at our border that will damage border communities and waste taxpayer money. While we are glad this bill is moving forward, we will continue to oppose and condemn that law enforcement strategy.”
Editor’s note: This summary was updated on July 3 to include additional reaction to the Senate passage of the comprehensive immigration bill.