What: All Issues : Making Government Work for Everyone, Not Just the Rich or Powerful : Immigration Law Reform : S 1348. (Immigration overhaul) Obama of Illinois amendment that would put an end date on a new merit-based system for permanent U.S. residency/On agreeing to the amendment (2007 senate Roll Call 200)
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S 1348. (Immigration overhaul) Obama of Illinois amendment that would put an end date on a new merit-based system for permanent U.S. residency/On agreeing to the amendment
senate Roll Call 200     Jun 06, 2007
Progressive Position:
Yea
Progressive Result:
Loss

This vote was on an amendment offered by Barack Obama, D-Ill., that would place an end date (often called a "sunset date") on a program in the underlying bill that would create a merit-based system for permanent U.S. residency. The program in question would be administered based on a points system that takes into account an applicant's employment status, education and other factors. Obama's amendment would stipulate that unless Congress explicitly extended the program, it would end in five years. The amendment was offered to a bill intended to overhaul America's immigration system.

Obama said that placing a finite end date on the program makes sense, largely because it is such a radical departure from the way green cards have been issued for many years. "The bill before us changes that policy—a policy that, while imperfect, has worked well, and this bill will now replace it with a new, untested, unexamined system to provide visas to immigrants who look good on paper but who may not have any familial or economic ties to our country," Obama said. "I have serious concerns about this new experiment in social engineering, not only because of the lack of evidence that it will work but because the bill says the new point system cannot be changed for 14 years.'

Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Obama's amendment will have the effect of gutting the bill, and breaking the compromise that enabled bringing it to the floor in the first place. He said that people would not even be able to start taking advantage of these new visas for eight years, so to sunset the program in five would invalidate the entire bill.

"If we sunset the merit-based system at 5 years, there is no vehicle left, and to us over here, what would my colleagues say? My colleagues would walk, and they should. This is not right. This does not help us as a country," Graham said.

The Senate rejected the amendment by a vote of 42-55. All but one Republican voted against it (Chuck Hagel of Nebraska). The majority of Democrats voted for it, though eight voted against it, including Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, one of the original sponsors of the bill. During consideration of this bill Kennedy repeatedly voted against Democratic amendments, in most cases arguing that they jeopardized the bipartisan coalition that was able to bring the bill to the floor at all. Thus, the measure went forward without language that would have ended the merit-based visa system in five years.

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