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U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee approves immigration reform bill


13:12, May 22, 2013

WASHINGTON, May 21 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday evening approved a comprehensive immigration legislation that grants 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the country an earned path to citizenship.

The legislation was passed by a vote of 13 to 5 with three Republicans joining 10 Democrats to approve it.

Earlier in the day, Democrats secured Republican Senator Orrin Hatch's support by negotiating a deal on H-1B visas for high-skilled workers, which the high-tech industry had lobbied for vigorously.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy ultimately decided not to offer the two amendments he sponsored to extend equal rights to same-sex couples in immigration reform, which Republican members warned would have scuttled the bill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said the bill is expected come to the floor next month.

U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed the result immediately after the committee vote, according to a White House statement.

"None of the Committee members got everything they wanted, and neither did I, but in the end, we all owe it to the American people to get the best possible result over the finish line," said Obama.

The president also urged the Senate to further move forward the "common-sense" legislation to "fix our broken immigration system."

"I encourage the full Senate to bring this bipartisan bill to the floor at the earliest possible opportunity and remain hopeful that the amendment process will lead to further improvements,"he said.

He also applauded the hardwork of proposing and negotiating the bill by a bipartisan group of eight Senators, dubbed as "Gang of Eight."

The Senate bill, unveiled last month by the "Gang of Eight," has so far received the most attention nationwide but is well expected to meet even greater resistance if it get the chance to reach the Senate floor.

Even if it passes the Democrats-controlled Senate, the bill will still have a longer and tougher way to go in the Republicans-dominated House.

Immigration system overhaul remains to be Obama's top legislative priority in his second term of presidency. Both the Senate bipartisan group's proposals and the president's own goals include giving an earned citizenship to 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the country, as well as awarding green cards to foreign high-skilled workers.

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