At a meeting on Monday night the 18-person committee voted 12-6 in favor of passing legislation that may offer hope to the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S.
Eight Democrats and four Republicans supported the move and the six opposition votes were all Republican.
“We’re delighted with it,” said Kelly Fincham, executive director of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, speaking to the Echo ahead of a meeting in St. Barnabas Auditorium, Bronx on Friday, where Senator John McCain will address a crowd of Irish immigration supporters.
“We feel we’ve won everything we wanted. The next battle will be in the Senate,” she said.
Queens Democrat Congressman Joe Crowley also supported the outcome. He was one of 32 house members who signed a letter urging senators to support a bill that would include a guest worker program and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
“It shows that the forces of common sense and fairness have triumphed over the right-wing, fear-driven attitude toward immigration,” said Crowley in a statement.
“Last night’s agreement represents a very significant and positive development,” said Dermot Ahern, Irish minister for foreign affairs, in a statement.
“In particular, I welcome the fact that the Senate Judiciary Committee bill proposes that the undocumented be able to regularize their status, with a route to permanent residency.”
Long Island Republican Congressman Pete King took the majority GOP view and was unequivocal in his opposition when contacted by the Echo. “I don’t support it. The house would not accept it,” he said. “Eleven million people on a path to citizenship? That just won’t sit well. It would be looked upon as amnesty. It would encourage people to just sit and wait it out for 11 years until they get amnesty.”
The bill will now go to conference, where it will clash with the Border Security Bill, which the House of Representatives passed last December.
Wisconsin Republican Senator Joe Sensenbrenner sponsored that bill, which immigrant advocacy groups have condemned as it would criminalize undocumented immigrants and anyone who offered them humanitarian aid. It would also prevent the implementation of a guest worker program.
At a press conference in New York last week, Senator Hilary Rodham-Clinton said the Sensenbrenner bill would: “literally criminalize the Good Samaritan and probably even Jesus himself.”