Just the Facts

Five Facts on Proposed Immigration Reform in the Last 20 Years

By Emma Petasis
January 31, 2019 | Blog

Wednesday marked the beginning of discussions over border security between the House and Senate. The appointed bipartisan and bicameral committee will be looking to cut a deal on immigration reform and border security in the next three weeks, or face another government shutdown. If successful, the U.S. may see a proposed immigration law overhaul; if they fail, another shutdown. Immigration overhaul efforts are not new. Here are five facts on previous immigration reform efforts.

In 2000, Congress passed the LIFE Act and Amendments.

The LIFE Act allowed immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and green-card holders to more easily and efficiently adjust their status to permanent residency without having to leave the United States, even if they had worked in the U.S. illegally before that. Introduced by Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY), the bill also permitted spouses and children of green-card holders to reunite with families in the U.S. while they wait for a visa. The bipartisan LIFE Act amendments occurred during the 2000 presidential election between then-Vice President Al Gore and then-Gov. George W. Bush.

In 2006, the House and Senate produced competing bills on Immigration reform—neither became law.

In December 2005, the Border Protection, Anti-terrorism, and Illegal Control Act of 2005 passed the House of Representatives. The bill, sponsored by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), primarily focused on enforcement at the border and within the interior. In the Senate, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) put forward the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006, which would have given amnesty to a majority of illegal aliens already in the country and promoted increased legal immigration. This bill passed. However, while both bills passed their respective chambers, neither went on to become law. Notably, 2006 also saw the passage of the Secure Fence Act, which authorized construction of a border fence along portions of the U.S.-Mexico border.

The DREAM Act of 2010 was the first major attempt at helping provide young adults a path to citizenship.

The year 2010 began with Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) creating a bipartisan immigration “blueprint” that would overhaul the nation’s immigration laws. The proposed preliminary bill was dismissed by opponents as merely granting “amnesty” for all illegal immigrants, and was criticized by supporters as an “insufficient first step.” The House that year also worked on immigration reform; it drafted and eventually passed the DREAM Act. The DREAM act, originally proposed in 2001 by U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), would have provided a pathway to citizenship for young undocumented Americans. Amidst the drama of both parties’ members voting across lines, 10 days later, the bill died in the Senate after a Republican filibuster.

In 2013, a bipartisan “Gang of Eight” collaborated on an extensive overhaul of the country’s immigration system.

The plan, championed by Sens. Schumer and John McCain (R-AZ), would have allocated billions in funding for border security and cleared a backlog of millions of immigrants trying to enter the country through legal channels. In a divided government, with a Democratic Senate and president and a Republican House, there was hope that this bipartisan proposal would be able to become law. In June, 2013, the bill passed the Senate overwhelmingly with a 68-32 vote. Upon being passed to the House side, however, Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) refused to give the bipartisan bill a vote, stopping it cold.

In 2018 bipartisan Problem Solvers propose real solutions.

Last year, the Problem Solvers Caucus in the House of Representatives put forward a bipartisan proposal for immigration reform. CNN reported that the deal looked to give DREAMers a 10- to 12-year pathway to citizenship, allocate $1.6 billion for physical barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border, and replace diversity-based visas with merit-based visas, among other proposals. The Problem Solvers’ proposals were similar in content to legislation introduced by Sens. Graham and Durbin in 2018. Members of the Problem Solvers Caucus also worked in 2018 on a discharge petition to organize a series of votes on immigration-related bills in an effort to prioritize immigration reform and to protect DACA applicants. However, the petition was unable to secure enough votes to come to fruition.

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