Senate Rejects AmendmentsTo Strengthen Immigration Reform Bill
Senate Refuses to Build Border Fence and Tighten Visa Checks
In a clear sign that the Gang of Eight’s immigration reform bill is intact, the Senate Tuesday rejected two key amendments designed to strengthen the bill.
The second amendment, rejected 58 to 36, would have required full implementation of a biometric check-in/check-out system to crack down on illegal immigrants who overstay visas before illegals could be granted legal status or seek permanent residency.
The Gang of Eight, including Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, voted against both amendments. Opponents of the amendments said the measures would be too costly or would unduly delay granting provisional legal status to the 11 million illegals already in the country.
The fencing provision, which was authorized by Congress seven years ago, would have prevented granting legal status to illegals until at least 350 miles of double tier fencing had been built. Permanent residency for illegals would have been withheld until the government completed nearly 700 miles of border fencing.
Republican Senator John Thune of South Dakota asked when the federal government is going to keep its promises when it comes to the issue of border security. The vote rejecting his amendment showed that a majority of senators reject the requirement of border security as a condition of legal status, permanent residency, or citizenship for immigrants who entered the country illegally.
The border now has only 36 miles of double tier fencing with single tier pedestrian fencing on another 316 miles. The remaining 299 miles have vehicle barriers.
The amendment rejecting border fencing follows rejection of an amendment last week that would have required the Obama administration to certify effective control of the border for six months before illegals could be granted legal status.
The biometric check-in/checkout system, called the US-Visit System, was a key amendment aimed at preventing the huge influx of illegals who overstay visas, estimated to be as high as 40 percent of illegals in the country.
The biometric system was recommended by the 9/11 commission and required by Congress as early as 1996. The Gang of Eight bill requires only photographic checks at air and seaports, but excludes land ports.
The amendments rejected by the Senate Tuesday had one clear message for immigration reform skeptics: Tighten the bill to show that the federal government is serious about enforcing immigration reform laws. The Senate votes showed that legalization before law enforcement remains a top priority.
Now it is up to members of the House to produce an immigration reform bill that honors the rule of law, border security, and visa security. With a deadline of completing immigration reform before the end of the summer, the fate of reform remains unclear.