The U.S. Senate passed by a 68-32 vote Thursday an immigration bill devised in part by Sen. Charles Schumer that includes increased border security and would allow thousands of New Yorkers who do not have legal immigration status to start on a legal path to citizenship. However, getting the bill passed in the House is going to be a much harder lift. Washington bureau reporter Michael Scotto filed the following report for NY1.
Immigration reform passed through the Senate Thursday with a good amount of bipartisan support.
"This is the beginning of a wonderful day for America because America has always been a nation of immigrants, and every time there are some who say, 'Turn your back on the immigrant,' they lose," said Sen. Charles Schumer.
Highlighting the importance of the vote, Vice President Joe Biden presided over it as senators sat at their desks.
The bill would strengthen border security, overhaul the visa system and put 11 million undocumented immigrants on a path to citizenship.
A last-minute amendment aimed at winning over Republicans and some Democrats would spend tens of billions of dollars doubling the number of border patrol agents and building 700 miles of fence along the southern border.
"This legislation will not only give us a secure border, but it will address the key element because people who now want to come here illegally will know that they cannot," said Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
For a number of Republicans, though, the border security proposals don't go far enough.
"The promises that are made in terms of 100 percent situational awareness and operational control, there's absolutely nothing there that will guarantee the American people that that promise will be kept," said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas.
Border security and a path to citizenship are big concerns of conservatives in the Republican-controlled House, which is why getting comprehensive immigration reform through there is going to be a challenge.
House Speaker John Boehner said that any bill that comes to the floor will need the support of the Republican majority.
"The House is not going to take up and vote on whatever the Senate passes," Boehner said.
President Barack Obama is aware of the challenges. In a statement, he said, "Now is the time when opponents will try their hardest to pull this bipartisan effort apart so they can stop commonsense reform from becoming a reality."
Immigration reform advocates have their work cut out for them in the coming weeks.