The Senate vote was 68-32, with 14 Republicans joining all Senate Democrats in backing the bill, which includes 700 miles of border fencing and double the number of border agents.
After weeks of grueling debate and compromise, the Senate Thursday passed landmark immigration reform that would impose new border controls while giving 11 million people in the U.S. illegally a shot at citizenship.
Chants of “si, se puede” — “Yes, we can” in Spanish — erupted from the packed gallery when senators sent the most sweeping immigration reform bill in a generation to the House on a vote of 68 to 32.
In Jackson Heights, Queens, immigrants hugged and wept as they watched the vote on a large-screen TV at Make the Road New York, an immigration advocacy group.
“I’m really emotional,” said Aracely Cruz, 27, who came to New York from Mexico as a teenager and lives in Corona, Queens.
Referring to her husband, who lives in Mexico, and their two daughters, who live with her, she added, “The girls are asking when he can come home. I hope it moves forward.”
But the euphoria was tempered by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who vowed that Republicans would “do our own bill.”
House Republicans want even tougher border security and measures to find immigrants who have overstayed their visas.
Boehner repeated that he would not bring any bill to a vote unless it has the support of most House Republicans — a line in the sand that might make it impossible to find a compromise with the Senate.
President Obama, who has made immigration reform one of his top second-term priorities, congratulated the Senate for its vote — and called on the House to act.
The Senate bill would install 700 miles of border fencing, double the Border Patrol and authorize more drones to patrol from the skies. “We have practically militarized the border,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
Republicans demanded the measures in return for agreeing to provisions Democrats wanted — such as a path to citizenship for the 11 million people in the U.S. illegally.
The 68 “yes” votes — 14 Republicans, two independents and all 52 Democrats — fell two votes shy of the 70 that Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) wanted to give the bill momentum heading to the House.
Schumer, an architect of the Senate bill, said Americans’ desire for immigration reform will ramp up pressure for House leaders to act.
“Put the bill on the floor, and it will pass,” Schumer said.
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