The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a sweeping immigration reform bill Tuesday that would put millions of immigrants living in the United States illegally on the path to gaining full citizenship.
The measure will now go to the full Senate, where the debate is expected to begin in just a few weeks.
The 867-page bill, which passed by a vote of 13-5, would do the following:
- Eleven million illegal people living in the U.S. could get what's called a "provisional immigrant status," eventually putting them on the pathway to full citizenship.
- Two million so-called "DREAMers" who came to the country illegally would get a Green Card in five years.
- Skilled workers in areas of science, technology, engineering and math would be eligible for more visas.
"All of us immigrants are aspiring citizens," DREAMer and community organizer Kevin Lee said. "They want to contribute. They want to be a part of the system and they want to be a part of this society."
The bill also calls for beefed-up security along the U.S.-Mexico border, and foreigners entering or leaving through 30 of the busiest airports will undergo fingerprinting.
There's an E-verify program in the legislation that requires all employers to confirm their employee's immigration status.
"We fingerprint people before they come into the country. Why don't we do the same when they leave?" Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., asked.
Documentary filmmaker Dennis Michael Lynch is one of many who say the new immigration bill does not do enough to protect America's national security interests. His new film "They Come to America II" takes a closer look at that problem.
CBN News spoke with Lynch for more about what he discovered while making the film. Click play to see that interview.
Meanwhile, one controversial amendment, which would have recognized same-sex marriages for immigration purposes, got pulled at the last minute. Republicans had threatened to walk away if it were included in the final bill.
"There are lots of people supporting this bill who aren't going to agree to redefine marriage for immigration law purposes," Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., said.
Three Republicans joined 10 Democrats to support the sweeping bill.
"Although neither Republicans nor Democrats will support each and every aspect of this legislation, it's gratifying to see the momentum behind these reforms," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said.
But those against the bill say the legislation does nothing to tackle the real problems of immigration.
"It doesn't stop illegal immigration. If anything, it may make the problem worse by not securing the borders and by incentivizing future illegal immigration," Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said.
The bill's future is still in question. It faces tough votes in both the Senate and House of Representatives.