The US Senate on Thursday approved a bill [S 744, PDF] which would create new pathways to US citizenship for the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants now living in the US. Senators voted 68-32 [roll call vote] to pass the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, which would allow undocumented immigrants to work and travel within the US under a provisional legal status. If prospective citizens maintain a clean criminal record and an employment status in accordance with the law, they would be free to apply for a green card in 10 years and US citizenship in 13. The bill also seeks to revamp the legal immigration system, particularly with respect to the number of temporary work visas for immigrants with training in science, mathematics and agriculture. In addition the law would increase federal funding for border security with Mexico to an estimated (USD) $46.3 billion, the largest increase ever endorsed. A bipartisan group of US senators unveiled details [JURIST report] of the long-awaited bill in April. According to media sources the bill is likely to encounter resistance in the US House of Representatives where lawmakers are reportedly considering alternative measures.
Immigration reform [JURIST backgrounder] continues to be a divisive political and social issue in the US. Earlier this month the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] in a Los Angeles federal court alleging that Border Patrol and immigration officers coerced hundreds or possibly thousands of Mexican nationals into signing their own deportation documents and forfeiting their right to a fair hearing before an immigration judge. In May the Connecticut Senate approved legislation [JURIST report] that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses regardless of documentation status. Also in May a judge for the US District Court for the District of Arizona ruled [JURIST report] that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his department engaged in unconstitutional racial profiling during the execution of immigration patrols.