What: All Issues : Making Government Work for Everyone, Not Just the Rich or Powerful : Immigration Law Reform : S 1639. (Immigration overhaul) Motion to defeat an amendment that would require immigrants to leave the country before receiving a new visa/On the motion (2007 senate Roll Call 229)
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S 1639. (Immigration overhaul) Motion to defeat an amendment that would require immigrants to leave the country before receiving a new visa/On the motion
senate Roll Call 229     Jun 27, 2007
Progressive Position:
Yea
Progressive Result:
Win

This vote was on whether to delete a portion of an amendment dealing with new visas for immigrants. During consideration of the underlying bill, the Senate leadership used an unusual procedure known as a "clay pigeon" amendment, which is, in essence, a large amendment that consists of many smaller amendments known as "divisions." Though the smaller amendments are collected into one large amendment, the Senate votes on each division separately. This vote was on whether to keep one of those divisions originally drafted by Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas.

Hutchison's division would have required illegal immigrants to return to their home country for two years in between receiving a probationary visa (which is issued pending decision on their visa application) and their full "Z visa." The amendment was offered to a bill intended to overhaul America's immigration system. Among other things, the bill establishes several new temporary and permanent visas (including the Z visa) in an effort to encourage the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States to legitimize their residency.

Hutchison said that her amendment would take away a key objection of many of her Republican colleagues: that the bill provides "amnesty" to people who are in the country illegally, essentially rewarding them for not following proper immigration procedures.

"If we do this, you will not be able to hear people say: There is amnesty in this bill. If my amendment is not passed, then the amnesty tag that has been put on this bill will remain. It is the key issue in the bill for the American people. It is the key issue for the regularization of the 12 million people who are here, and then we will have a guest worker program for new people coming in in the future that will also work with the border security that is established in this bill," Hutchison said.

But Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said that Hutchison's amendment could discourage people currently in the country illegally from taking advantage of the new visas and work programs the bill would create. Feinstein argued that this is because no one will want to take a chance on applying for a visa they may not get, knowing that they will be deported as part of the process.

"What immigrant is going to show up and register for a program if he has to take his chances on leaving the country and coming back in before he gets some kind of immigration status? What immigrant is going to report to deport? I wager that many, if not most, will simply stay underground and try to keep their heads down for as long as possible. They have built lives here, they have families, they own homes, and they have jobs they want to keep. Very few undocumented immigrants are going to show up for a program that offers no certainty they will actually be able to legalize their status," Feinstein said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., moved that Hutchison's division be tabled (or killed). By a vote of 53-45, the Senate voted to table Hutchison's division, effectively killing it. All but five Democrats present voted to table the division, thus killing it. All but eight Republicans present voted against tabling the division. Thus, the measure went forward without language that would have required illegal immigrants to leave the country for two years in between receiving a probationary visa, and their full Z visa.

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