Republican Senator from Arizona John McCain (C) laughs with Democratic Senator from New York Chuck Schumer (R) and Democratic Senator from Illinois Dick Durbin (L), after the US Senate voted to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation. The Senate passed the legislation 68-32. EPA/Michael Reynolds.
The landmark bill would also pave the way for 11 million people who have been living illegally in the US to obtain residence permits and ultimately full citizenship.
However, the reforms have yet to pass through the House of Representatives, where the bill is expected to face a considerably tougher passage.
“Today, the Senate did its job. It's now up to the House to do the same,” President Barack Obama urged in an official statement released by the White House.
The loosening of visa regulations is partly designed to boost tourism and, similarly, champions of the bill stress the benefits to the economy of bringing undocumented citizens into the fold.
The president described the legislation as “commonsense reform” that sees that “our businesses and workers are all playing by the same rules and everyone who’s in this country is paying their fair share in taxes.”
He insisted that the bill “would provide a big boost to our recovery, by shrinking our deficits and growing our economy.”
As far as the visa-waiver programme is concerned, Poland has been pushing for many years to have its citizens included.
Poland, Bulgaria and Romania are currently the only EU nations excluded from the programme, and specific provisions have been included in the bill that would extend the current pool of countries on the list.
Pro-Polish senators have echoed Warsaw by stressing Poland's role as a US ally in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Earlier this month, Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski acknowledged that “a lot” of Poles were breaking the law by staying in the US beyond the expiry of their visas.
He also admitted that “it will be harder [to pass the bill through] the House of Representatives, however, where immigration issues are the subject of political controversy.”