Senators filed a whopping 300 amendments to the bipartisan immigration reform bill this week, setting the stage for intense debate over core elements of the legislation.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will convene on Thursday morning to begin the potentially lengthy process of considering the changes. Most of the amendments come from Republican legislators who oppose the bill. They would carve up some of its central parts, such as the pathway to citizenship, and beef up others, like the border security requirements.
But Democrats have also proposed changes, such as granting same-sex couples equal recognition, that could also challenge the delicate bipartisan coalition that backs the bill.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said Wednesday that his panel would begin by taking up changes to border-security measures, as well as technical changes.
We read through all 300 amendments. Here are some that could change the makeup of the bill, or at least spark some sexy headlines:
The Dilemma Over Same-Sex Couples
The bipartisan "Gang of Eight" has said they will work together to defeat amendments that could threaten the bill. But a couple of amendments proposed by Leahy may challenge their alliance.
Leahy has proposed an amendment that would allow Americans in long-term same-sex relationships to sponsor their foreign partners for green cards. Another would recognize same-sex unions under immigration law.
Republicans on the "Gang of Eight" have said such changes will "kill" the bill. That puts Democrats on the "Gang" who back gay rights, such as Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), in a tough spot. Do they come out in favor of the bill and risk an exodus of potential Republican votes? Or do they oppose the measures and risk angering advocates who have pushed for gay and lesbian couples to be included in the bill.
Undocumented Immigrants Should Never Be Citizens
Rather than waste his time making a path to citizenship more difficult for undocumented immigrants, Ted Cruz (R-Texas) took a more direct approach: ban it.
An amendment submitted by Cruz would keep most undocumented immigrants from ever becoming citizens. That's significantly harsher than current law, which doesn't provide a reasonable pathway to citizenship for most undocumented immigrants, but doesn't specifically ban it, either.
And then there are the senators who will just make things a little harder for undocumented immigrants applying for legalization. Along those lines, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) would ask the majority of those applicants to submit a DNA sample along with other data.
An Easier Pathway to Citizenship
Some Republicans want to make it nearly impossible for undocumented immigrants to get citizenship. But several Democrats want to make the path easier.
Sens. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) and Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) want to do away with the Dec. 31, 2011 cutoff date in the bill. Under the current proposal, undocumented immigrants who arrived after that date are ineligible for provisional legal status, the first step on the path to citizenship. Blumenthal's amendment would move the cutoff date up to April 17, 2013.
Blumenthal also wants to offer undocumented immigrants under the age of 18 the same, shorter pathway to citizenship as older undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as minors.