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Senate Begins Floor Debate of Immigration Reform Bill

June 7, 2013

D.C. protesters

On Friday, June 7, 2013, the Senate resumed consideration of S. 744: The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. The bill is expected to remain on the floor for at least two to three weeks as various Senators propose numerous amendments to the bill. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) will sponsor an amendment to provide undocumented children (also known as "little Dreamers") with the same five-year pathway to citizenship offered to older youth under the DREAM Act, which is included in the current Senate bill. As written, the bill only provides a faster track to citizenship for Dreamers, undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children and are now older than 16.

Other amendments that could possibly be brought up on the floor include the amendments withdrawn during the committee approval process by Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI), which would expand eligibility of all lawfully present immigrants to Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Medicare. Sen. Hirono also proposed amendments that would expand health care access to aspiring citizens. Such amendments are key to ensuring that aspiring citizens who are HIV-positive stay healthy and are engaged in care; furthermore, allowing for full engagement in health care services, including affordable options like Medicaid, can be an important tool in preventing disease before it happens.

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) may also propose his amendment to allow same-sex spouses to be sponsored for immigration as along as one of the spouses was an American citizen and they were legally married either in a U.S. state or in another country that legally recognizes same sex marriages. Sen. Leahy withdrew this amendment from the committee approval process, recognizing that Republicans would have prevented the bill from moving out of committee if this amendment was included.

However, many of those amendments expected to be proposed on the Senate floor over the next few weeks will weaken the bill from the perspective of both AIDS United and other members of the progressive immigration reform community. We will continue to monitor the movement of critical amendments as they are debated on the Senate floor.




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