The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Monday to allow illegal immigrants who get legal status to begin collecting tax-welfare payments, as the panel spent a fourth day working through amendments to the massive immigration bill and party-line splits began to emerge.
In one major change, the committee voted 17-1 to make a third drunken-driving conviction a deportable offense for the newly legalized immigrants if at least one of those offenses occurs after they are approved for legal status.
But immigrant-rights groups called that a rollback of due-process rights for the immigrants and said a drunken-driving incident shouldn’t cost someone a chance at citizenship.
“We cannot and will not support hard-line proposals that take away discretion and limit an individual’s ability to pursue the pathway to citizenship,” said Paromita Shah, associate director of the National Lawyers Guild’s National Immigration Project.
Overall, the committee continued to maintain the delicate balance struck by the “Gang of Eight” senators who negotiated the 867-page bill: Quick legal status for illegal immigrants, but delaying citizenship rights until after the administration spends more money on border security, puts in place a new electronic verification system to check workers’ status, and enacts an entry-exit system to check visas at airports and seaports.