Tougher Enforcement Triggers
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has said that the immigration bill that he helped write will not pass Congress without tougher border security standards. And his GOP colleagues on the Judiciary Committee took notice.
One of Ranking Member Chuck Grassley's (Iowa) 77 amendments would would require tougher border enforcement across all sectors, not just those areas deemed "high-risk," as the bill currently states. Another one of Grassley's changes would make it mandatory for employers to verify the immigration status of job applicants within 18 months of the bill's passage, years before mandatory screening is required in the existing bill.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Iowa), who offered 49 amendments, wants 700 miles of reinforced fencing built along the southern border.
Republicans have long demanded that border security take priority over legalization in immigration reform. But even if these amendments pass, don't expect the skeptics to jump on board with the bill.
"If even the modest amendment I have offered fails, it is exceedingly difficult to see a way forward for this bill," Sessions said in a statement on Wednesday.
Tinkering With the Low-Skilled Worker Program
The Senate bill creates a program that would allow lesser-skilled immigrants to come to the country legally, with a starting point of 20,000 visas per year and the ability to expand to as many as 200,000. But the tug-of-war over the scope of the program isn't over yet.
An amendment by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) would start the program out at 200,000 visas and allow it to grow to as many as 400,000 per year. That's more in line with the demands of business groups.
Some Democrats, on the other hand, would like to whittle the program down further. Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) put forth an amendment that would tie the start of the visa program to the security on the border, making sure border metrics are met before it starts.
Bringing Back Siblings
The Senate bill shifts the balance away from immigration based on family ties and toward a focus on employment. As part of that change, it cuts visas for siblings and married adult children of U.S. citizens.
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) would bring those visas back.
And she doesn't stop there. Among her other family-based amendments, Hirono would allow legal permanent residents and citizens to bring two extended family members to the U.S. if they haven't brought other relatives.
Fallout From the Boston Bombing
Despite the chatter over immigration and the terror attacks in Boston, the Senate amendments don't do much to directly address them.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) submitted a few amendments related to asylum and refugee law, including one that would cause you to lose your visa if you returned to your home country. Another Graham amendment would allow DHS to perform more extensive background checks on immigrants coming from regions that represent a "threat."