NAICU Washington Update

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Passes Senate; Fate in House Uncertain

July 02, 2013

Last week, the Senate approved a sweeping immigration reform measure, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (S. 744). The bill, approved by a vote of 68-32, extends the paths to citizenship for undocumented and legal immigrants, including undocumented students, and increases border security personnel and enforcement.

For higher education students and institutions, S. 744 contains much-awaited DREAM Act language that would create a path to citizenship for undocumented students who attend college in the U.S. or serve in the U.S. military. In addition, the DREAM provisions of S. 744 would:

  • Repeal current federal law that limits states' ability to offer in-state tuition to undocumented students attending public colleges and universities
  • Allow DREAM-eligible students to qualify for federal loans and work-study dollars
  • Create eligibility without limitation based upon age

S. 744 increases the availability of H-1B visas for highly skilled workers. It also reforms the green card system to allow foreign student graduates with STEM degrees to stay in the U.S. to work.

There remain some issues of concern in the bill. One is the need for clarification on the definition of a STEM degree. Another is language that over-reaches into the investment decisions of both public and private organizations. There are also new fees, and compliance deadlines that may be difficult to meet.

The House still needs to act on its own version of immigration legislation, or the process will stall in the Senate. House leaders have indicated they will not take up the Senate bill in its entirety, but will meet in early July to discuss strategy and priorities. No additional details on House legislation, or a specific timeline, are available.

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