Washington: The US Senate has voted by an 84-15 margin paving the way for a debate on the comprehensive immigration bill, which if signed into law would give a pathway to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants.
"A permanent, common-sense solution to our dysfunctional system is in sight. This bipartisan legislation is the solution our economy needs. It is the solution immigrant families need," the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, said.
Acknowledging that this bill isn't perfect and "compromise" is necessary and inevitable, he said this measure takes important steps to reform the broken legal immigration system, strengthen border security and hold unscrupulous employers accountable.
"Over the next three weeks Senators will propose many ideas to make this legislation better. But those changes must preserve the heart of the bill - a pathway to earned citizenship that begins by going to the back of the line, paying taxes and fines, learning English and getting right with the law," Reid said.
As the Senate voted to move ahead with the discussions, the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Senator Patrick Leahy moved three amendments to Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
It includes an amendment to provide equal protection to lawfully married bi-national same sex couples that other spouses receive under existing immigration law; to allow long-term temporary agricultural workers to be accompanied by a child or spouse while working in the US, and to ensure that American non-profit performing arts organizations have a predictable and reliable process for the required temporary visa foreign performers need to perform in the country.
"This bipartisan immigration bill is a measure the Senate should come together to pass. We should send to the House the best bill that we can. We should do what is right, what is fair, and what is just. The House must also consider comprehensive immigration reform legislation without further delay," Leahy said on the Senate floor.
Leahy said that immigration reform was an important economic issue, but it was also a civil rights issue and an issue of fundamental fairness.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio from Florida said that vote shows there's strong bipartisan support for solving the immigration problem.
"What this vote today proves is that most of my Republican colleagues are prepared to vote for immigration reform – as long as we can ensure that we don't have another wave illegal immigration in the future. So I think it's a good start, we have some work to do still," he said.
Rubio also introduced an amendment to strengthen the requirement that immigrants demonstrate English proficiency before receiving permanent legal status.

However, Republican Senator from Texas, John Cornyn, said he voted against and oppose the Gang of 8 bill because it fails to provide a real plan to secure US border and keep the nation safe, offering lofty promises without any guarantees.
Senator Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader, voted to proceed to the bill and said there are certainly conditions under which he could end up supporting an immigration bill.
"We're going to find out in the course of the next three weeks whether this becomes a bill that I and others can be comfortable supporting" he said.
"I think the status quo is completely unacceptable and that we ought to be trying to improve both the legal and the illegal situation. The legal immigration improvements in the bill are really quite good things that we should have done years ago. The contentious parts of it obviously are in the categories of benefits and borders," McConnell said.


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