The Legacy of S. 744, the Senate Immigration Reform Bill

Written by on June 27, 2014 in Legislation, Reform with 2 Comments

8639408168_da0a41ee78_kOn June 27, 2013, the Senate passed S. 744, an ambitious, bipartisan comprehensive reform of our immigration system.  Although far from perfect, it represented a genuine effort to wrestle with the complex, confusing, and highly emotional train wreck that has become our immigration system.  In the months that followed, a small bipartisan team in the House tried to forge a similar compromise, and when that failed, Democrats introduced HR 15, a modified companion to S. 744.  Some Members of Congress have given up waiting for House leaderships to act on any immigration bills, let alone HR 15, while others think the window is still open for a tiny bit longer.  Either way, S. 744’s birthday party is a somber affair, a bittersweet victory with no clear end in sight.  This observation should not diminish the importance of the anniversary, which remains a tribute to what can be accomplished when people work together.

Here are some of the lasting lessons from these comprehensive reform bills.

  1. It is not impossible to write a comprehensive bill nor is it impossible to pass it.  In the years that followed the defeat of the 2007 Senate immigration reform bill, we frequently heard staffers, pundits, and even some advocates argue that a comprehensive overhaul of the immigration system simply couldn’t be done—people didn’t have the appetite or the attention span for something so complex and difficult.  Not only did the passage of S. 744 disprove this notion, but the ongoing support for immigration reform suggests that the public welcomes a sophisticated solution to a complex problem.
  2. It is possible to have a civil debate over complex immigration issues.  The Senate mark-up of S. 744, in particular, was a terrific exercise in democracy at work.  Rather than finger pointing and name calling, Senators actually talked about issues of grave importance—due process, border needs, the right to counsel—made compromises, and reached agreements. Both Senators Grassley and Cornyn made a point of saying that they would not block consideration of the bill on the floor because they felt they had received a fair hearing in committee.
  3. Comprehensive bills are incubators for ideas.  S. 744 contained new language and solutions to old problems.  It required appointed counsel for kids, for the mentally disabled and other vulnerable groups.  It increased immigrant integration funding.  It redefined and expanded numerous employment visas to recognize the importance of entrepreneurs.  It created a new hybrid visa that was based on the work of labor and business.  All those new ideas are out there.  Some have become smaller, targeted bills.
  4. Successful legislation captures a moment in time.  Although only a year has passed, some of the ideas of S. 744 have already been eclipsed by current events or political changes.  Some will not weather the test of time, replaced, one hopes by more robust protections for due process, family immigration, and more accountability and common sense along our borders.   We can’t recapture the moment, but we can savor the good, and learn from the bad, and make sure that we move forward with measures that improve the immigration process without undermining basic rights.

So while the idea of legislative immigration reform is being both celebrated and mourned, we shouldn’t let it stop us from recognizing that reform is possible. As Senator Dick Durbin tweeted after S. 744’s passage, “Today, we have accomplished something great, made America a stronger nation & honored our heritage as a nation of immigrants.” – That will always remain something to celebrate.

Photo Courtesy of SEIU.

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  • DonHonda

    The Left-Leaning LA Times posted an article that shows that the Obama administration, the Illegal Alien lobby, and the major media outlets have been in collusion to depict the “high” deportation numbers. The exact opposite is true since the beginning of the current President’s policy. Interior deportation has and will be lower than 1973 rates. This is leading towards more people overstaying their visas and currently, more Illegal Alien minors crossing the border. Obama has just recently instructed border patrol to not turn back those Illegal Aliens on record as having entered illegally as priors, but to let them pass IF they don’t have a major criminal record. After the first Illegal Entry, it is a felony each time thereafter.

    Even Obama in 2011, called the deportation numbers deceptive when talking to Hispanic voters:,0,545192,full.story#axzz2xkzioeHR

  • Rose Li

    S744 is a draconian bill. Open border non profits such as La Raza (NCLR), MALDEF, LULAC and Casa De Maryland were invited to the White House to have a closed meeting with democrat senators and assist in outlining this bill. In the bill it states that “provisional aliens” will automatically get a W work visa in construction, long term health care and hospitality industries. These jobs are already taken by low income and middle class citizens. It also sates that illegals will not have to pay back taxes if they can prove they live below the poverty level. Well isn’t that something…the only immigration we have been seeing is poor and uneducated. The English language is also not a requirement for citizenship so all this bill is is amnesty for law breakers with no punishments.

    Mandatory E-verify for all employers is also in the bill…but the loop hole is it is voluntarily submitted meaning the states decide. No funding for the border for ten years and no border fence.

    Illegals are coming here with no criminal back round checks, no testing for contagious diseases and many are in gangs. This administration has released thousands of illegals alien prisoners onto US soil rather then deporting them and diseases are popping up everywhere quarantining hospitals and schools.

    This president is now going to throw yet another temper tantrum and by pass congress once again and allow an amnesty an amnesty with no border protection in my opinion because they will soon find out that these (mostly men) coming to the US are Muslims not from South America.