Senate Passes Historic Immigration Reform Bill: What’s the Next Step?

On Thursday June 27th, the U.S. Senate passed its comprehensive immigration reform bill. However, keep in mind that there is no change in immigration law as a result of this vote. While it is an important first step, and greatly increases the chances that immigration reform will pass this year, it is only the first step in a long process.

Everyone’s attention now turns to the House of Representatives. The Speaker of the House has already stated that the House will not simply take up the Senate bill for a vote. There are a few possible outcomes from the House side:

  1. The House could draft its own comprehensive immigration reform bill. This is not expected to happen. In fact, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the Virginia Republican who leads the House Judiciary Committee, has said that his committee is drafting bills that address certain immigration-related issues, but that they are not drafting a single comprehensive bill like the Senate did.
  2. This brings us to the next option, which is that the House would propose a series of immigration bills which address specific issues.
  3. Another option is that the House would do nothing, and effectively allow the Senate bill to die.

When will we know what will happen with immigration reform?

In my professional and personal life, if I can’t know right now what the exact outcome will be (which is my strong first preference!) I at least want to know when I will know. Unfortunately, no one has a precise answer for this, either. Congress is on recess this week for the Independence Day holiday. We will have a better idea of how things will turn out as the summer progresses.

I have met with Senator Warner and his staff a few times over the past few weeks. He and his staff have confirmed that Congressional representatives are most likely to listen to well-organized groups of constituents who are able to clearly articulate why they support (or don’t support) particular provisions. He said this is especially true if the groups are business-related or religious or interfaith groups. Therefore if you want to make your voice heard, the most effective way may be to connect with a group that represents your views, or is willing to incorporate them into their advocacy work.

Finally, for a list of practical steps to prepare for immigration reform regardless of your current immigration status, check out this link.