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Senate Judiciary Committee approves immigration reform bill

The Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] on Tuesday approved S. 744 [text], an immigration reform bill. The bill, entitled the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, is intended to help create a 13-year path to citizenship for the approximately 11 million current undocumented immigrants, contingent upon strengthening security along the Mexican border. The bill also proposed an improved process for allowing high-skilled immigrants into the country's workforce. After a five-day deliberation, the bill passed by a vote of 13-5. The 13 who voted in favor of the bill consisted of 3 Republicans and 10 Democrats. The full Senate will consider the bill next month.

Immigration [JURIST backgrounder] has become a hot button issue in the US. Tuesday's bill is the result of a bipartisan group of eight senators, including Senators Chuck Schumer, John McCain, Dick Durbin, Robert Menendez and Marco Rubio [official websites], who in January released [JURIST report] a framework [text, PDF] of comprehensive immigration reform legislation. The individual senators involved in building the framework released several statements on what they hoped the legislation will achieve. McCain focused on border security [press release], stating that "greater focus needs to be paid to drug traffickers and criminals that cross the border." He also compared the framework to failed legislation [FAQ text] that was put forward in 2007, and issued more details about the plan, including that funding for some aspects of the program will come from "fees collected from immigrant workers—both new guest workers and the previously undocumented." These funds, said McCain, were intended to be used for "registering the undocumented, processing visas and other applications, enhancing enforcement and providing English and civics education to immigrants."

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