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Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., made history Tuesday, becoming the first senator of the modern era to deliver a Senate floor speech entirely in Spanish, as he addressed his colleagues to make the case for amnesty.
“I ask unanimous consent I be able to deliver a floor speech on immigration reform in Spanish,” Kaine said.
“Creo que es apropiado que tome unos pocos minutos para explicar la legislación en español,” declared Kaine.
He said he wanted to explain aspects of the bill to the roughly 40 million Spanish speakers living in the United States.
Kaine’s remarks came immediately after Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., introduced an amendment to the immigration bill that would mandate that illegal aliens learn English before earning permanent U.S. residency.
The Senate then voted 82 to 15 to avoid a filibuster for now and put the comprehensive immigration reform bill up for debate.
Before the vote, Rubio apparently made a complete U-turn on amnesty.
Rubio, a member of the so-called Gang of Eight sponsors of the bill, said in a Spanish-language interview Sunday that “legalization” of the nation’s estimated 11 million illegal aliens will occur before any new border security measures are enforced.
“Nobody is talking about preventing the legalization. The legalization is going to happen. That means the following will happen: First comes the legalization. Then come the measures to secure the border. And then comes the process of permanent residence,” Rubio told Univision.
The statement contradicts his previous assurances to conservatives that border security must be established before amnesty. In a recent television ad, Rubio had urged Americans to stand with him to “end de facto amnesty”:
The Senate will now consider amendments to the bill on amnesty, security, back taxes and health care coverage.
The big question for Democrats will be whether the fragile deals and dozens of compromises already negotiated can survive first in the Senate and then in the Republican-controlled House.
President Obama has made immigration reform a second-term priority and seems anxious to get his agenda back on track as his administration fends off a slew of major scandals.
At a White House event this morning, the president told lawmakers, “If you’re serious about actually fixing the system, then this is the vehicle to do it.”
Flanked by supporters, he insisted the legislation is the “best chance we’ve had in years to fix our broken immigration system.”
As it stands now, the bill attempts to increase border security, require all employers to check workers’ legal status, provide visa programs for skilled workers and those working in agriculture.
Now the bill is open to amendments it faces even greater challenges.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell voted to begin debate on the bill but warned, “[T]here will need to be major changes to this bill if it’s going to become law.”
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said he plans to introduce an amendment requiring effective monitoring of the entire southern border before giving any illegal aliens permanent resident green cards.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., calls that a “poison pill” meant to sabotage the entire bill.
Reid will try to get the bill passed before the July 4 recess, but whatever measure emerges will face an even greater challenge in the House.