SAN ANTONIO, Texas – There has been mixed reaction to Thursday’s vote in the U.S. Senate to end debate on the immigration reform bill and move to a final vote.

Sixty eight senators, including 14 Republicans, vote to end debate. Those in the minority included Texas’ two U.S. senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz.

U.S. Reps. Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, and Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, supported passage of S.744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.

“The United States Senate passed landmark legislation designed to create a path for citizenship for millions of undocumented residents who will contribute to this great country the way so many immigrants in the past have done,” said Hinojosa, who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

U.S. Representative Pete Gallego, D-Alpine.
U.S. Representative Pete Gallego, D-Alpine.

“The Senate showed us that it is possible for Democrats and Republicans to come together to solve one of our nation’s most pressing issues. I applaud the ‘Gang of Eight’ for ensuring the bill they passed provides all immigrants the opportunity to earn citizenship. Now, it is time for my colleagues in the House of Representatives to follow suit and develop a sensible, comprehensive bill that is reflective of our American values.”

Castro said the United States was built and continues to grow on the shoulders of immigrants. “In America, from generation to generation, we witness the many contributions immigrants have made to help make our nation what it is today. As a proud product of San Antonio, Texas, I am encouraged to see my colleagues in the Senate acknowledge the core role immigrants play in our nation,” Castro said.

Castro added that the Senate’s strong vote “in favor of fixing our broken immigration system that has relegated millions of folks into the shadows continues to build historic momentum on this issue.” Castro said that as the debate moves to the House of Representatives, he is proud to join the millions of Americans calling for comprehensive immigration reform to become a reality. “I look forward to working constructively with folks on both sides of the aisle to get comprehensive immigration reform done this year and move our nation forward,” Castro said.

Gallego, who represents the congressional district with the largest border with Mexico, said the strong bipartisan support in the Senate of a bill that includes a path to citizenship show just how much the tide has turned.

“Reform would bring many families out of the shadows and bring some relief to our economy. My colleagues in the House would be remiss to ignore economics, public opinion, and sound public policy,” Gallego said.

He added that U.S. values teach that families should stick together and that hard work, not circumstances, should shape the nation’s future. “Our nation becomes stronger as more people pledge allegiance to our flag and can commit fully to this nation. I look forward to voting for a bill that includes a path to citizenship. I urge my colleagues in the House to move quickly on this very important policy matter that greatly impacts the 23rd district, the state of Texas, and our country as a whole,” Gallego said.

Their tone of Hinojosa, Castro and Gallego contrasted with comments made two days ago by U.S. Reps. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, and Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, who said that an amendment to S.744, authored by Republican Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee, and John Hoeven of North Dakota, unnecessarily militarizes the border. The amendment added 20,000 additional Border Patrol agents, more drones, cameras and sensors and completion of 700 miles of border fencing.

“The construction of the wall proposed by the Corker-Hoeven Amendment does nothing to address the real problems fueling the migration of immigrants across the border,” Cuellar, O’Rourke and Vela said, in a joint statement. “Since 2006, approximately 71,500 people have been killed as a result of cartel violence. Although Mexico’s economy has performed exceedingly well in the recent past, economic conditions along the U.S.-Mexico border consistently remain stagnant.”

Cuellar, O’Rourke and Vela said any real attempt by both countries to stop the flow of immigrants must include “smart and humane” border enforcement in the United States, a “comprehensive effort to eliminate cartel violence” and a “concerted plan to enhance economic development on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.”

Cuellar, O’Rourke and Vela said they are still strong supporters of comprehensive immigration reform, but not like S.744. “The U.S. needs to invest in improving security on the border, but we can do this without throwing billions of dollars at empty promises of security and enforcement made in this amendment,” they said.

Many advocacy groups have weighed in on the Senate vote for S.744. Those in opposition include Detention Watch Network. The group said that while the potential path to citizenship for some of the 11 million immigrants in the U.S. would bring much needed relief for families and communities, S. 744 does not align U.S. immigration policies with the nation’s values of fairness and due process.
“The Senate bill as it stands, with the addition of the Corker-Hoeven amendment, shows that our senators have bowed down to politics and are forsaking the safety of border communities,” said Andrea Black, executive director of DWN. “As a result, they are moving forward with a bill that is not the common sense, fair, and just immigration reform they promised. The private-prison industry and other enforcement industry contractors stand to gain the most from the legislation while families and communities will suffer.”

Among the organizations welcoming the passage of S. 744 are the AFL-CIO, America’s Voice, the National Immigration Forum, the National Immigration Law Center, the Economic Policy Institute, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the DREAM Action Coalition, the Hispanic Federation, the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, the American Bar Association, the American Immigration Council, and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka said: “As this bill goes forward, we renew our call to President Obama to ease the deportation crisis that is wrecking workforces, families and communities. More than a thousand aspiring Americans are being deported every day for no reason other than the absence of a working immigration system in the United States of America. Now it is time for action. Working people are more committed than ever to enacting meaningful, common sense immigration reform with a real path to citizenship.”

Frank Shary, executive director of America’s Voice, said: “Of course the bill is not perfect, but that’s the nature of compromise. The Corker-Hoeven border security amendment is terrible public policy and a bitter pill to swallow. However, we understand that the nature of bipartisan compromise is that you have to accept some things you don’t like in order to get the things you do like. And on balance the Senate has produced a strong bill and its core elements remain intact.”