On Wednesday, House Republicans will subject the Senate bill to scrutiny. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, the Virginia Republican who called the hearing, said the key question for him is whether the bill can avoid the mistakes of the 1986 amnesty, which legalized millions of immigrants but failed to secure the borders or crack down on businesses that hire illegal immigrants.
“In any immigration reform proposal, we must make sure that the president can’t unilaterally ‘turn-off’ the federal enforcement of our immigration laws,” Mr. Goodlatte said.
During five days of voting, the committee rejected a series of amendments designed to strengthen border security requirements and to delay legalization until after that is completed.
Backers said they were trying to balance all sides of security and that bringing illegal immigrants out of the shadows is a key component.
Labor, business balance
In Tuesday’s fight over high-tech workers, the committee voted to nearly double the number of visas available under the H-1B program, with the possibility of another expansion depending on the job market.
Democrats said that was a major concession but was an acceptable price for winning Mr. Hatch’s support for the bill — an indication of just how crucial every vote will be when the legislation reaches the Senate floor.
“We hope that this is a good-faith effort on both of our parts to bring support for this bill to pass,” Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat and one of the “Gang of Eight” senators who wrote the bill, told Mr. Hatch. “We’ve made those concessions to win your support. We need your support.”
The move toward Mr. Hatch’s direction threatens to split support among Democrats. Sen. Al Franken, Minnesota Democrat, said he will have to check with labor unions to see how they feel about the bill.
The split between labor unions and business groups has been the hidden land mine in the immigration debate for years. The schism helped bring down the bill when the Senate debated the issue in 2007.
Tuesday’s debate dented several key claims made by the bill’s authors.
In one instance, senators acknowledged that their bill doesn’t require illegal immigrants to pay all back taxes they owe, just the outstanding bills the Internal Revenue Service knows about.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat and the bill’s chief sponsor, said illegal immigrants by definition are living in the shadows, and making them reconstruct their pay history could be tough and could keep many from legalization.
“We all realize that people did wrong things. And the goal is to set this right by letting those in the shadows come out,” Mr. Schumer said as the committee plowed through amendments to the 867-page bill. “The worry I have here is that by being as rigid … as this amendment is, that it will delay and prevent many, many people from coming out of the shadows.”