A major plan to reform the nation's immigration laws survived its first day of edits in Congress, as some Senators successfully fought off attempts to make it harder for immigrants living in the country illegally to gain legal status. Washington bureau reporter Michael Scotto filed the following report for NY1.
During a marathon hearing Thursday, U.S. senators began the politically heated process of making amendments to a landmark bill that would reform the nation's immigration laws.
"We are open to changes, but don't make an effort to kill a bill that is the best hope for immigration reform, I believe, that we've had in this country," said Sen. Charles Schumer.
At issue was illegal immigration, along with attempts by Republicans to impose even tougher border security measures than those currently in the bill.
"I understand that we've made a significant investment at the border. That's been very important, and I acknowledge that," said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas. "But it still leaks."
Democrats, along with a couple of Republicans, were able to stop the GOP from pushing through some stricter provisions. One would have required the Department of Homeland Security to prove that it had established control over the entire border with Mexico for six months before allowing immigrants living in the country without legal permission to begin the legalization process.
"This amendment would set a standard that would basically delay, probably forever, any legalization in bringing people out of the shadows," Schumer said.
Democrats did agree to an amendment that would set up stricter border security standards before the government could begin issuing green cards to immigrants already living in the country without legal permission.
"I think this improves it and increases our flexibility," Schumer said.
Democrats said the amendment would not delay a pathway to citizenship, but it's that pathway that could keep some Republicans from supporting the bill, no matter how much border security is improved.
"It is likely to scuttle this bill and cause it to be voted down in the House of Representatives," said Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.
The amendment process is just beginning. Lawmakers are expected to return next week to consider more than 200 other amendments that are before committee.
It's during that time that they may take up the controversial amendment of giving more rights to immigrants who are living in the country illegally and are in same-sex relationships.