As immigration reform winds its way through Congress, it can be tough to keep track of which provisions are in, which are out and which need to be there.

Simply put, the bill that made its way out of the Senate Judiciary Committee is good, but could be better. Here are the points to keep in mind as it moves to the full Senate next week.

The Good

  • Most importantly, the bill gives aspiring citizens a way to become Americans. For many people here in the U.S. now, there is a pathway to citizenship. That includes offering DREAMers—immigrants who came to the United States as children—a five-year path to lawful permanent residence and then citizenship.
  • Increased flexibility. The bill allows for more flexibility in judicial review of immigration decisions and offers the discretion to afford waivers based on unique individual circumstances.
  • Right to Counsel. Children and individuals with certain mental disabilities must have appointed counsel in immigration proceedings.

The Bad

  • Leaves out same-sex couples. Because same-sex marriage isn't recognized at the federal level. Foreign gay or lesbian spouses of American citizens (or partners who aren't American in states where same-sex marriage isn't recognized) still won't have the ability to apply for residency and citizenship that is extended to spouses in opposite-sex couples.
  • Border militarization. Heightened enforcement at the borders will mean more use of drones and other technologies to monitor everyone who crosses, treading on privacy rights.
  • Mandatory E-Verify. This error-prone nationwide employment verification system could be a precursor to a national ID system and generates risks to the privacy rights of all workers and endangers the rights and livelihood of everyone in U.S. workplace -- both citizens and aspiring citizens.


  • Discriminatory profiling. The bill includes language barring racial and ethnic profiling but does not include a suggested ban on profiling based on religion and national origin. And exceptions would allow racial and ethnic profiling to be used for national security and border enforcement – exceptions that may swallow the rule.

The ACLU will continue to push for improvements to the bill that respect the rights of American citizens and those who aspire to be Americans.