WASHINGTON, DC - The United States Senate today passed a long debated Immigration Reform bill (S. 2611) by a 62-36 vote. House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) released the following statement:
"The comprehensive, bipartisan immigration reform bill passed today by the Senate is certainly not perfect legislation. However, the Senate bill clearly is preferable to the draconian and punitive legislative approach adopted in December by House Republicans, who for the first time ever would make millions of undocumented immigrants felons and those who help them subject to criminal penalties.
"I believe there is virtually unanimous agreement in the Congress that we must secure our borders and know who is entering our country. The Senate bill takes an important step in the right direction in securing our borders, while also keeping American families together and offering businesses the employees they need to thrive.
"As the process moves forward, it is critical that President Bush exert strong leadership and dispense with the unrealistic, enforcement-only approach of House Republicans. The fact is, House Republicans stand virtually isolated in this important debate, while the President, a bipartisan majority in the Senate and an overwhelming majority of House Democrats continue to advocate comprehensive legislation.
"Today's vote in the Senate sends should be a wake-up call for the right-wing of the Republican Party that its misguided views are out of step with the American people."
Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD) also applauded the Senate's passage of comprehensive immigration legislation (S. 2611). The bill includes three top priorities for Senator Mikulski - an extension of her H2B temporary worker fix, reforms that will make it easier for military service members to become U.S. citizens, and an expansion of the U.S. Visa Waiver Program that includes Polish citizens.
"Everything in Washington does not need to be a political hot potato. This bill shows that together, we can do better. We have worked on a bipartisan basis to deliver comprehensive immigration reform," said Senator Mikulski. "I support this bill because it not only protects our borders with strong security and enforcement provisions, but it also protects American workers. It rewards those who play by the rules, while making sure immigrants are treated with dignity."
Included in the legislation is a three-year extension of a crucial provision from Senator Mikulski's "Save Our Small and Seasonal Businesses Act," which made significant changes to the federal H2B (non-skilled seasonal worker) visa program that saved thousands of small businesses around the country. Among the changes, it exempted returning seasonal workers from counting against the national cap of 66,000 people, providing significant relief to industries across the country. The provision was signed into law by President Bush in May 2005, and is set to expire on September 30, 2006.
"I promised small businesses they could count on me to keep fighting until we had a solution and they had the seasonal workers they needed to stay in business. My promises made are promises kept," said Senator Mikulski. "Without these seasonal workers, many businesses would be forced to limit services, lay off permanent U.S. workers or, worse yet, close their doors."
Senator Mikulski's "Kendell Frederick Citizenship Assistance Act" was also included in the Senate bill. Originally introduced in December 2005 to honor fallen Maryland soldier U.S. Army Spc. Kendell Frederick, the proposal demands better coordination among U.S. immigration and military officials. Spc. Frederick, 21, of Randallstown, was killed in October 2005 by a roadside bomb as he traveled in a convoy to get fingerprinted in order to process his citizenship application. Spc. Frederick tried for more than a year to become a U.S. citizen, but his application was delayed several times due to miscommunication and misinformation from the U.S. government.
"There are over 40,000 non-U.S. citizens serving in the military today. Many are on the front lines in Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout the world, fighting terrorists," said Senator Mikulski. "They are focused on fighting the enemy. They shouldn't also have to fight the bureaucracy just to become a citizen of the country they are fighting for. If you are willing to fight and die for America, you should be able to become an American."
Both proposals will be negotiated as the bill moves to a Conference Committee of congressional leaders.
You can read the bill and related information at:
More news on the immigration bill can be found at:
Congressman Hoyer is the Federal Representative for the Fifth Congressional District of Maryland. Members of the United States House of Representatives serve two-year terms. Mr. Hoyer also serves as the Minority Whip. The Minority Whip is a member of the minority party in the U.S. House of Representatives who assists the Minority Leader in coordinating the party caucus in its responses to legislation and other matters.
Mr. Hoyer's website is located at http://www.hoyer.house.gov/. His office can be reached at (202) 225-4131. More biographical info on Mr. Hoyer can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steny_Hoyer.
Senator Mikulski is one of two federal senators for the state of Maryland. She is classified as a Class III Senator. Senators are elected to six-year terms, and every two years the members of one class-approximately one-third of the Senators-face election or reelection. Terms for Senators in Class I expire in 2007, Class II in 2009, and Class III in 2011.
Ms. Mikulski's website is located at http://mikulski.senate.gov/. Her office can be reached at (202) 224-4654. More biographical info on Ms. Mikulski can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbara_Mikulski.