The House Judiciary Committee late Tuesday approved its first immigration bill, advancing on a party-line vote a proposal to boost interior enforcement and border security.
After a daylong markup, the Republican-led panel cleared the SAFE Act on a 20-15 vote shortly before 11 p.m. It is one of several bills that Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) says the committee plans to send to the House floor in the coming weeks.
“While more work has yet to be done, today’s approval of the SAFE Act brings us one step closer to solving the immigration puzzle,” he added. “We have, and will continue, to take a step by step approach to immigration reform, thoroughly examining each piece in detail and working to find consensus on the other issues we need to fix.”
The committee will meet again Wednesday to consider legislation to create an agricultural guest-worker program.
Democrats on the panel assailed the SAFE Act. Rep. John Conyers Jr. (Mich.), the ranking member, said it would criminalize immigrants and result in “widespread racial profiling.”
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (Calif.), a senior Democrat who has been negotiating a separate bipartisan immigration bill, said Rep. Trey Gowdy’s (R-S.C.) bill “takes us back in time to an approach that has long been rejected by the American people.”
“I hope that the committee’s consideration of this bill is merely a bump in the road because I believe that we’ve been making solid progress up to this point,” Lofgren said. “This bill puts in doubt that shared belief that we can come together and solve the problem of our broken immigration system together on a bipartisan basis.”