Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Representing Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers, Maryknoll Sisters, and Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Judiciary Committee passes immigration bill; now moves to Senate floor

On May 20, the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns was present at two different events that promote the rights of migrants: Mid-day, we attended a press conference and rally with the Caravan of Hope, which is moving across the U.S. to raise awareness about the plight of migrants. The caravan, based on last year’s Caravan of Peace, was organized by Fr. Alejandro Solalinde, a Catholic priest whose center in Oaxaca provides relief and support for those who are moving between Central America and Mexico to the U.S. Read more about the Caravan of Hope in this Texas Observer article. Fr. Solalinde and the migrants with whom he is traveling are visiting cities around the U.S.; their time in Washington will also include visits to members of Congress.

Later in the evening, we attended a Mass, reception and panel discussion with participants in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Justice for Immigrants (JFI) campaign. JFI activists from around the country are in Washington for two days of briefings and lobby visits, timed to influence lawmakers especially on the Senate side as the proposed bipartisan bill is hammered out in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The following update is from the Interfaith Immigration Coalition.

Yesterday, May 20, the Senate Judiciary Committee has approved 13-5 the bipartisan Senate immigration reform bill, S. 744, allowing the bill to make its way to the Senate floor for further discussion and a vote from all senators. All Democratic senators and Republican Senators Graham (SC), Flake (AZ) and Hatch (UT) voted YES. The NO Votes were Senators Grassley (IA), Sessions (AL), Cornyn (TX), Lee (UT) and Cruz (TX). In other news, Senator McConnell has agreed to not block the immigration bill form moving onto the Senate floor, and has urged fellow senators to do the same.

During the amendment process, we made more than 3,00 calls, and were a big part of defeating the worst amendments and gaining modest improvements to the bill, specifically helping immigrants in detention, Violence Against Women Act recipients, and children; prohibiting dangerous deportations; discouraging racial profiling; and restricting immigration enforcement actions near schools, hospitals, victims services locations and places of worship. A full rundown of amendments can be found at While we were not able to see all of the positive amendments we were pushing for approved, this is still a victory and we will continue to advocate for these provisions during the full Senate floor debate.
Senators will be in their home states from this Thursday, May 23, until Monday, June 3. In the meantime, the Congressional Budget Office has to "score" the cost of the bill, which usually takes an average of two weeks. Thus, the debate on the Senate floor is likely to begin as early as June 10. It will be incredibly important to set up local visits with your senators and representatives and their staff in the coming week when they’re at home to make sure they know that their constituents care about immigration reform. Make sure to also attend town halls that your senators and representatives might be hosting, write letters to the editor and opinion editorials in your local paper, encourage your community members to make calls and write letters to the members’ offices, and organize and take part in creative actions alongside immigrant rights’ groups to raise your voices in support of immigration reform.
Also, it will be a good idea to educate your communities that this bill is not currently law – it has a long way to go. Not only do we need to continue to powerfully advocate for the best bill possible to pass the Senate and House, we also need to prevent notario fraud and people advertising that they can help immigrants through this new bill – since it is not law yet.
Thank you again for all your work bringing us this far – keep up the great work!