Arizona immigrant rights groups on Wednesday applauded the Senate Judiciary Committee's vote to move comprehensive immigration reform legislation to the Senate floor.
The 13-5 vote cleared the way for an epic showdown on the Senate floor on the measure, which is one of President Barack Obama's top domestic priorities. The bill also gives the Republican Party a chance to recast itself as more appealing to minorities.
Leaders of some of the 22 organizations that make up the Arizona Comprehensive Immigration Reform Coalition held a press conference Wednesday in Phoenix, praising the Judiciary Committee and saying they will continue pressing for full congressional passage.
Coalition leaders announced plans for activities to be held during the congressional Memorial Day recess in support of immigration reform.
The legislation would provide a path to legalization and eventually citizenship for an estimated 11 million immigrants, create a new program for low-skilled foreign labor and permit highly skilled workers into the country at far higher levels than is currently the case.
At the same time, it would require the government to take costly new steps to guard against future illegal immigration, including increased border enforcement and nationwide activation of the E-Verify system to allow employers to check prospective workers' papers and legal status.
Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, both Republicans, are members of the Senate "Gang of Eight" that came up with the legislative compromise.