Border securityGOP lawmakers want stronger border security provisions in immigration bill

Published 17 June 2013

A border security amendment to the immigration reform bill, offered by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), was defeated by a 57-43 vote last Thursday. Republican senators who supported Grassley’s amendment said they were concerned about a repeat of the 1986 scenario: the Reagan administration pushed through Congress an amnesty for illegal immigrants then residing in the United States, but without bolstering security along the U.S.-Mexico border, prompting millions of illegal immigrants to cross the border in the following decades. Several GOP lawmakers are offering their own border security amendments to the immigration overhaul bill.

A border security amendment to the immigration reform bill, offered by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), was defeated by a 57-43 vote last Thursday.

USA Todayreports that the amendment would have required DHS to prove they had “effective control” of the border for six months before illegal immigrants currently in the United States would be allowed to embark on a path to citizenship.

“This is not a very good start for those of us who would actually like to come up with a solution,” Senator John Cornyn, (R-Texas) told reporters after the vote.

Cornyn has himself offered an amendment which would prevents illegal immigrants from receiving a green card until 90 percent of illegal border crossers are apprehended and 10,000 Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents are hired and deployed along the border.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said he would not support the immigration bill unless Cornyn’s amendment is added to it. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) also said he wanted stronger border security provisions before he would support the bill, which he helped draft as a member of the bi-partisan Gang of Eight group.

Republican senators who supported Grassley’s amendment said they were concerned about a repeat of the 1986 scenario: the Reagan administration pushed through Congress an amnesty for illegal immigrants then residing in the United States, but without bolstering security along the U.S.-Mexico border, prompting millions of illegal immigrants to cross the border in the following decades.

Under the bill currently debated in the Senate, authorized illegal immigrants can be granted a temporary legal status within six months after DHS creates a plan to secure the border and submits it to Congress. The bill stipuates goals for DHS border security plan, including monitoring 100 percent of the border (not only the heavily trafficked border areas, as was originally proposed), and apprehending 90 percent of the people trying illegally to cross the border.

DHS will have five years to reach these twin goals. If the department fails to do so, a border commission will be established to supervise the implementation of the plan. The commission will consist of representatives from California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.

USA Todaynotes that the immigration reform bill says that even if the border security plan’s goals are not reached, and even if the border commission fails as well, authorized illegal immigrants would still be allowed to apply for green cards ten years after the bill has passed, and for  full citizenship after thirteen years.

Republicans lawmakers say that the border security provisions in the bill must be strengthened before illegal immigrants can start on the road to chtizenship.

“We need to prove to the American people that we can do our job,” Grassley said during the debate Wednesday. “People support reform, but support reform if we have border security first.”

Other GOP lawmakers have proposed amendments to the bill.

Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) proposed an amendment barring unauthorized immigrants from receiving legal status until Congress certifies that the border has reached various levels of security.

Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota) proposed two amendments. The first would delay unauthorized immigrants from receiving the initial, temporary legal status until all four border-state governors approve DHS’s border strategy. The second amendment will require the government to build 350 miles of “reinforced, double-layered fencing” before unauthorized immigrants can receive temporary legal status, and 700 miles of fencing before they can get their green cards.

Senator David Vitter (R-Louisiana) offered an amendment which would require DHS to implement a system to record the fingerprint of every foreigner departing the country’s air, land, and sea ports.

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