Senate passes immigration bill with higher ed friendly provisions

On June 27, the US Senate approved sweeping immigration legislation. By a vote of 68 to 32, the Senate approved and concluded a month-long debate of the nearly 1,200-page measure. To note the historic significance of the vote, Vice President Biden presided over the vote and Senators voted from their desks, which is a rare procedural move to mark historic votes and special occasions. The Senate used the same formal procedure of voting from their desks to pass health care reform legislation three years ago.

The bill remakes the nation’s immigration system for the first time in a generation by spending tens of billions of dollars to bolster security along the U.S. southern border and offering a path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants.

The Senate bill includes many changes the higher education community has been seeking for several decades. The measure incorporates elements of the DREAM Act and establishes an expedited pathway to citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants. These young people, often in the U.S. by no decision of their own, graduate from high school at the rate of 65,000 each year. These students would be afforded the opportunity to go to their states’ public colleges and universities at in-state tuition rates at the state’s discretion while participating in federal student loan and work study programs.

The bill constrains student visa fees, limits the bureaucratic hurdles universities face in obtaining work visas for international professors, and generally enhances opportunities to bring the best and brightest students and educators from around the world to U.S. universities.

The legislation now moves to the House for consideration. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said he will not bring up the bill. While he has not endorsed a piecemeal approach, which has been suggested by some in his caucus, Boehner has said anything brought to the House Floor will have a majority of Republican support.