WASHINGTON -- New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the son of Cuban immigrants who has worked 20 years in Washington for an immigration overhaul, said today he will be thinking of his mother when he casts a vote this afternoon for a potentially historic immigration overhaul.
"When the moment comes to cast that vote, I will be casting it in memory of my mother – and for every immigrant like her who came to this country in the last century to give their families a chance to contribute to America’s exceptionalism -- and for all those who will now have a chance to contribute to America’s exceptionalism in this century," Menendez said on the Senate floor.
The Senate is expected this afternoon to pass a sweeping overhaul of immigration laws, including new security measures at America's entry points and a route to legalized status for some 11 million undocumented immigrants. Menendez was a key figure in the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" that crafted the bill.
Opponents argue that he bill will provide "amnesty" to people who have broken the law to enter the country and that the security measures are not nearly strong enough. They warn that past promises of tighter border controls have failed.
But supporters have well more than 60 votes to get the bill through the Senate. The final Senate vote is scheduled for 4 p.m.
In his final floor speech on the issue, Menendez cited a long list of immigrants or children of immigrants who stood as American giants. He namd Jonas Salk, Colin Powell, Madeline Albright, Thomas Edison, Henry Kissinger and others.
"This legislation is for all those immigrants and immigrant families who helped make America better.
This is the culmination of a long journey for me. I have been fighting for immigration reform for 20 years in Washington ... and have been blazing a pathway to citizenship that would keep families together and give them a chance at a better life -- and this bill does that."
Menendez later urged House Republicans to "lean away from extremes, opt for reason and govern with us."
The House is unlikely to take up the Senate version of the reform bill and will likely instead work on its own legislation, likely to include more conservative elements.