Leahy warns GOP not to 'stall' immigration reform

On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed a motion to end debate on proceeding to the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. That vote is expected next Tuesday.

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The bipartisan group of eight senators, known as the Gang of Eight, introduced S. 744, which would create a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the country, toughen border security, create a guest worker program and boost high-skilled immigration. The Senate Judiciary Committee, which Leahy leads as chairman, passed the bill out of committee on a bipartisan 13-5 vote last month.

“What came to committee as an agreement from a Gang of Eight is now from a group of 18,” Leahy said referring to the number of senators serving on the Judiciary Committee. “Let’s make it a group of 100.”

Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) used the first day of floor debate on the bill to point out its flaws Friday.

Some Republicans have complained that the legislation is being rushed through, and that it would provide amnesty for illegal residents before strengthening border enforcement.

“We need an immigration system that lives up to American values,” Leahy said. “Few topics are more fundamental to who we are as a nation than immigration. 

“We should do what is right, what’s fair, what’s just. Immigration reform is an important economic issue and a civil rights issue and a fairness issue. … I believe we can write the next great chapter in American history.”

Reid said he hoped Senate work would be completed on immigration reform by the July recess, but some Republicans have vowed to drag out the process.