As Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Leahy plays a central role in advancing legislation related to immigration and shaping federal immigration policy. At the forefront of his immigration priorities is passing legislation that benefits Vermont agriculture and industry, upholds Vermont’s tradition as a state that welcomes people from around the world, and values and recognizes the importance of unity for all families.
In past congresses, Senator Leahy has been the lead sponsor of the H-2A Improvement Act, a bill to include dairy workers in the agricultural work visa program. He has been a lead sponsor of the Agricultural Job Opportunities, Benefits and Security (AgJOBS) Act to legalize the existing undocumented agricultural workforce in order to help America’s farmers stay productive and a vital part of the American economy. Senator Leahy believes reforms to our nation’s immigration system can improve state and local economies across the country.
Senator Leahy believes in the humanitarian tradition of American immigration policy. He is a fierce advocate for refugees fleeing violence and persecution around the world. And he is deeply committed to supporting the Vermont communities that do so much to help resettle these vulnerable populations. In 2013, Senator Leahy re-introduced the Refugee Protection Act. This bill would improve protections for refugees and asylum seekers and fulfill the United States' obligations under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. Senator Leahy is a leading voice demanding an end to the expanded use of family detention for mothers and children fleeing violence in Central America.
Beginning in 2003, Senator Leahy fought to end discrimination in our immigration laws through the Uniting American Families Act, legislation that would allow U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to petition for their foreign same-sex partners to come to the United States through the family immigration system. In June 2013, the Supreme Court decided United States v. Windsor, which held that the federal government cannot discriminate against married same-sex couples for the purpose of federal benefits and responsibilities. The result was the fulfillment of Senator Leahy’s goal to ensure that married same sex couples have full immigration rights.
Senator Leahy has long believed that our entire immigration system is in need of comprehensive and commonsense reform. During the 113th Congress, the Senate made significant progress toward this goal by passing S.744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 with an overwhelming bipartisan vote. This legislation sought to enhance border security, create a workable and accurate electronic workplace verification system, reform the legal immigration system, and provide a tough but achievable pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country. It contained important long-standing Leahy initiatives that would directly benefit Vermont agriculture and industry, including important improvements to the agricultural temporary worker visa program, and reforms that both streamlined and strengthened oversight of the job-creating immigrant investor EB-5 Regional Center program that has brought millions of dollars of capital investment to Vermont. Senator Leahy successfully led the effort to pass this legislation first through the Judiciary Committee and then through the Senate. He remains committed to creating an immigration for the 21st Century through comprehensive reform.