WASHINGTON (TheBlaze/AP) — The Senate has passed massive immigration legislation that will offer a pathway to citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants, while promising border security in the future.
The vote was 68-32, far more than the majority needed to send the measure to the House. Prospects there are not nearly as good and many conservatives are opposed.
Vice President Joe Biden presided, and senators cast their votes from their desks, both steps reserved for momentous votes.
The bill, a priority for President Barack Obama, would amount to the most sweeping changes in decades to the nation’s immigration laws.
After three weeks of debate, there was no doubt about the outcome. Fourteen Republicans joined all 52 Democrats and two independents to support the bill.
Here are the 14 GOP senators who voted for the legislation:
Marco Rubio (Fla.)
Lamar Alexander (Tenn.)
Lisa Murkowski (Alaska)
Kelly Ayotte (N.H.)
Jeffrey Chiesa (N.J.)
Susan Collins (Maine)
Bob Corker (Tenn.)
Jeff Flake (Ariz.)
Lindsey Graham (S.C.)
Orrin Hatch (Utah)
Dean Heller (Nev.)
John Hoeven (N.D.)
Mark Kirk (Ill.)
John McCain (Ariz.)
Division among Republicans was evident as potential 2016 presidential contenders split. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida was one of the Gang of 8, while Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas were opposed to the bill.
The legislation’s chief provisions includes numerous steps that advocates claim will fight future illegal immigration – some added in a late compromise that swelled Republican support for the bill – and to check on the legal status of job applicants already living in the United States. At the same time, it offers a 13-year path to citizenship to as many as 11 million immigrants now living in the country unlawfully.
Critics, like Sen. Cruz, say border security provisions will never come to fruition if legalization occurs first. He has referenced a similar bill that Congress passed in 1986, which made hollow promises relating to border security in exchange for amnesty for illegal immigrants.
Immediately after the vote, Sen. Paul appeared on Fox News and expressed similar concerns and explained why he voted against the bill.
Under the deal brokered last week by Republican Sens. John Hoeven of North Dakota and Bob Corker of Tennessee and the Gang of 8, the measure requires 20,000 new Border Patrol agents, the completion of 700 miles of fencing and deployment of an array of high-tech devices along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Those living in the country illegally could gain legal status while the border security plan was being implemented, but would not be granted permanent resident green cards or citizenship.
A plan requiring businesses to check on the legal status of prospective employees would be phased in over four years.
Other provisions would expand the number of visas available for highly skilled workers relied upon by the technology industry. A separate program would be established for lower-skilled workers, and farm workers would be admitted under a temporary program. In addition, the system of legal immigration that has been in effect for decades would be changed, making family ties less of a factor and elevating the importance of education, job skills and relative youth.
With the details of the Senate bill well-known, House Speaker John Boehner said at a news conference the separate legislation the House considers will have majority support among Republicans. He also said he hopes the bill will be bipartisan, and he encouraged a group of four Democrats and three Republicans trying to forge a compromise to continue their efforts.
He offered no details on how a House bill could be both bipartisan and supported by more than half of his own rank and file, given that most of the bills that have moved through the House Judiciary Committee recently did so on party line votes over the protests of Democrats. None envisions legal status for immigrants now in the country illegally.
Boehner declined to say if there were circumstances under which he could support a pathway to citizenship, but he made clear that securing the border was a priority.
“People have to have confidence that the border is secure before anything else is really going to work. Otherwise, we repeat the mistakes of 1986,” he said, referring to the last time Congress overhauled the immigration system.
Here’s how the Senate vote count turned out:
TheBlaze’s Becket Adams contributed to this report.