Five anti-immigrant GOP amendments to immigration reform

A slew of amendments from Senate Republicans are not helping the Republican party's image as anti-immigrant

Topics: Immigration Reform, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Republicans, gang of eight,

As the Senate moves towards voting on immigration reform, Republicans have been introducing amendment after amendment that would gut the legislation, or in general place additional restrictions on undocumented immigrants. A total of 300 amendments have been introduced, mostly from Republicans (including 77 from Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, himself).

Here are five noteworthy offenders, in no particular order:

  • Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, proposed an amendment that would ban any immigrant “who is or has previously been willfully present in the United States while not in lawful status” from ever becoming a citizen – effectively eliminating the legislation’s pathway to citizenship for those undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States.
  • Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, he of the 77 proposed amendments, would allow federal law enforcement “to take into account an individual’s country of origin” when considering whether to allow them into the country, also referred to as “profiling.”
  • Sen Mike Lee, R-Utah, who introduced 23 amendments, proposed one that would allow only those who work as domestic workers, including “cooks, waiters, butlers, housekeepers, governessess, maids, valets, baby sitters, janitors, laundresses, furnacemen, care-takers, handymen, gardeners, footmen, grooms, and chauffeurs of automobiles for family use,” to be exempt from laws barring employment of undocumented immigrants. A spokesman for Lee tried to clarify in a tweet: “Lee’s Amdt 14 just means if you pay the kid down the street $20 to mow your lawn, he doesn’t have to go thru E-verify.”

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  • Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., has concerns about undocumented immigrations attaining legal status and then going on welfare. One of his 49 proposed amendments would prevent immigrants from achieving a provisional legal status if they are likely to become “public charges,” and the “likelihood of the alien’s reliance, at any point in the future, on cash and non-cash Federal means-tested public benefits” should be considered before such a status is granted. Sessions proposed another amendment that would prevent “terrorist aliens” from receiving welfare benefits. This was in response to conservative outrage over benefits received by the Tsarnaev brothers, the Boston bombing suspects – though it is unclear how this amendment would work practically, as they received the benefits before the attacks occurred.
  • Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who, as Lee Fang of The Nation points out, was part of the opposition to gun background check legislation, wants to increase penalties for immigrants charged with drug-related offenses, “if the offense involves the possession of a firearm while cultivating or manufacturing controlled substances on Federal lands.”

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at

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