CHN: Senate’s Second Attempt At Immigration Reform Fails

The Senate renewed debate on immigration reform this week, but failed to attain the votes needed to end debate and refer the bill for a final vote.  On June 28, S. 1639, the Senate’s most recent immigration reform proposal, fell 14 votes short of the 60 votes needed to advance it towards final passage.  Only 46 senators voted in favor of cloture, while 53 voted against it.  With this defeat, it is unlikely that either the House or the Senate will consider immigration reform again until after the 2008 elections.
Earlier this month the Senate considered a bipartisan immigration reform proposal, S. 1348, crafted in conjunction with the White House.  Obstructionists managed to hamper progress on this bill and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) pulled the bill off the floor on June 7, when a motion to limit debate on the bill failed.  A week later a bi-partisan group of senators announced an agreement to restart the process and immigration reform was once again placed on the Senate schedule.  On June 26, deliberations began on S. 1639, which was essentially the same as the original bill plus the amendments that had been approved before the bill was pulled.  Agreement was reached to consider another set of 27 amendments, evenly split between Democrats and Republicans with one offered by Independent Sanders (VT).

On Wednesday, June 27, after voting on just 6 of the 27 amendments, bill opponents maneuvered to stall the bill leaving 20 amendments yet to be considered and forcing the cloture vote which failed, effectively killing the bill.  Twelve Republicans voted for the bill, and 16 Democrats voted against it.  Eighteen Senators who had voted in favor of cloture on Tuesday switched their votes, effectively killing the bill.  The results demonstrate how divisive the immigration debate is on a number of issues including enforcement, the guest worker program, the path to citizenship, and family unification.

The proposal also presented a difficult choice for the advocacy community, who has been working for comprehensive immigration reform for years.  All advocates agreed that S. 1639 was problematic.  Some believed the bill was too flawed and made the difficult choice to oppose it.  Others felt the status quo was so untenable they supported forward movement in the Senate hoping that improvements could be made in the House.  Certainly all are disheartened by the way things played out in the Senate.  No relief is in sight for the millions of immigrants who continue to suffer at the hands of an outdated immigration system.