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 increasing the availability of visas to extended families of U.S. citizens/On the motion (2007 senate Roll Call 233)
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S 1639. (Immigration overhaul) Motion to defeat an amendment increasing the availability of visas to extended families of U.S. citizens/On the motion
senate Roll Call 233     Jun 27, 2007
Progressive Position:
Nay
Progressive Result:
Loss

This vote was on whether to defeat an amendment by Robert Menendez, D-N.J., that would give family ties more weight as part of the underlying bill's new merit-based point system for visas.

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 in an effort to encourage the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States to legitimize their residency. Additionally, the bill would establish a new point system intended to award a larger number of green cards based on U.S. employment needs. As an example, foreigners with skills in highly-desired high-tech fields would be awarded more points toward a visa than those in fields that are in less demand.

Menendez's amendment would give family ties more weight as part of the underlying bill's new merit-based point system. The amendment would allot 10 points out of 100 for immigrants who have family that are already citizens of the U.S. The amendment also would award another 5 points to legal immigrants awaiting green cards who would not receive them under the underlying bill because they missed a May 2005 cutoff date for applications. Menendez tried to move the cutoff date to capture these people waiting in the current backlog by offering an amendment earlier, but it was defeated.

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.

Debate on Menendez's "division" was perfunctory, in part because it occurred late at night at the end of a long day of debate. But generally, Menendez believes the underlying bill does not do enough to ensure that families – some of whom are legal U.S. residents, and some of whom are not – are not split apart unnecessarily. Republicans have argued that Menendez's amendment would unbalance the underlying bill's new merit point system, which was envisioned as a way to attract more highly skilled and educated immigrants.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., moved to "table" (or kill) Menendez's amendment. By a vote of 55-40, the Senate agreed to kill the amendment. All Republicans present voted to defeat the amendment. All but eight Democrats voted to retain the amendment. The most Progressive members of the Senate voted to retain the amendment, with the exception of Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., who helped draft the original bill. Kennedy voted against several Democratic amendments during the course of debate on this measure, arguing that the underlying bill was a carefully crafted compromise that could be undone by major changes. Thus, the amendment was defeated, and the bill went forward without language that would have given family ties more weight in the bill's new merit based point system for issuing visas.

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