On May 20, 2013, comprehensive immigration reform legislation cleared a significant hurdle toward passage with a bipartisan vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee that moves the landmark bill to consideration by the full Senate next month. The 13-5 vote on The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, which moved through the committee process over 5 days and 301 amendments, was reached after key Democrats agreed to forgo a measure that would grant permanent residence to the same-sex partners of U.S. citizens. In addition, the version to be debated by the full Senate will include an amendment that raises the minimum annual number of H-1B visas to 115,000 and decreases employer hurdles to hiring foreign nationals. Importantly, the amended bill would also distinguish between companies with a majority-American workforce in the Information Technology field from those that primarily outsource foreign labor.

In response to the committee’s vote, President Obama urged the full Senate to approve the legislation, which he described as “largely consistent with the principles of common-sense reform [he] has proposed and [up to] the challenge of fixing our broken immigration system.” In addition, the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition (EWIC)*, a coalition of businesses, trade associations, and other industry organizations that support reform of current U.S. immigration policy, issued a statement congratulating the committee on this important step and reiterating its support of the legislation, while also voicing outstanding concerns about the implementation of a nationwide electronic employment eligibility verification system and the proposed new less-skilled worker visa program.

* Laura Foote Reiff, Co-Chair of Greenberg Traurig’s Business Immigration and Compliance practice, is a co-founder of EWIC.