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AILA: Senators Advance Both Good and Bad Amendments on Bipartisan Bill

Cite as “AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 13050809 (posted May. 8, 2013)”

Wednesday, May 8, 2013
George Tzamaras or Belle Woods
202-507-7649 / 202-507-7675
[email protected] / [email protected]

AILA: Senators Advance Both Good and Bad Amendments on Bipartisan Bill

WASHINGTON, DC – Late yesterday, about 300 amendments were filed by Republican and Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which have been posted publicly in an unprecedented effort to open the immigration reform process.

“Amid the hundreds of amendments filed by Senators were several that would improve our immigration system. However, there were a number of proposals that, if accepted, would pull the U.S. immigration system backward instead of moving it forward,” said American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) President, Laura Lichter. She continued, “Some of the amendments are disappointing, considering the spirit of compromise with which the bill was drafted.”

In terms of the amendments offered, several would strengthen the bill in ways that AILA has committed to supporting:

  • Ensuring all families can reunite with their loved ones, including the siblings of U.S. citizens and LGBT/same-sex families.
  • Ensuring businesses of all sizes have access to the workers they need and that immigrant and U.S. workers are fairly paid and fully protected.
  • Restoring due process so everyone who goes through the system is treated fairly.
  • Allowing “Little Dreamers” (children who are too young to have met the higher education criteria for DREAMers) to access the five-year path to citizenship.
  • Reinforcing the principle of federal preemption to ensure consistency and uniformity in immigration law nationwide.

The most problematic of the amendments, if accepted, would gut the core of the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” bi-partisan bill. Many amendments would essentially guarantee that no one could successfully get through provisional legal status and gain citizenship, while others would make it more difficult for immigrants to successfully seek asylum. Offered amendments threaten carefully-struck balance in important areas, such as:

  • Border reform: Realistic, specific, and cost effective border reform is key, yet several Senators think it is smart to require additional ineffective and costly measures as “triggers” before anyone could apply for legalization
    • For example, one amendment insists on completion of 700 miles of double-layered fencing.
    • Another amendment would eliminate training for immigration agents on fundamental issues like racial profiling, the improper use of force, and privacy rights.
  • Legalization: An inclusive and workable legalization program is critical, but many amendments set overly stringent requirements:
    • One provides that anyone who ever resided in the U.S. unlawfully is to be permanently barred from achieving citizenship. Another requires DNA testing for anyone applying for permanent status, the cost of which will be excessive.
    • People with minor convictions should not be totally barred from our country, but several amendments would do this.
    • Registered Provisional Immigrants must be able to travel and visit their family, but one amendment would forbid them from leaving the U.S. for over a decade, until they can get their green cards.
  • Fairness: A cornerstone of American values and our legal system is fundamental fairness and due process, but many amendments would eviscerate vital protections, such as access to legal counsel and the basic right of a detainee to have a custody hearing before detention.
  • Families: Family reunification is a longstanding principle of our immigration laws, and any workable reform plan should provide for quick family unification, but several amendments make it even harder for families to immigrate and at least one prevents siblings from petitioning for each other.
  • Businesses: For America to move forward and our economy to grow, reforms to employment-based immigration must be enacted, but several amendments would put such restrictions on businesses as to shut down enterprise and business operations.
  • Failed programs: Notoriously ineffective state-local partnership programs, such as “287(g),” should not be resurrected as some senators have insisted upon.

“Destructive amendments that only serve to undermine the workable framework that the Senate ‘Gang of Eight’ and their staff have built have no place in this process. We call on the Senate Judiciary Committee to resist playing politics with America’s future, and pass a bipartisan and balanced bill out of committee that will meet the needs of our economy, and reflect the values upon which our country is built,” concluded Ms. Lichter.


The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.