June 20, 2013

U.S. senators announce border security compromise

The emerging compromise adds powerful momentum to an Obama-backed immigration reform bill.

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A breakthrough at hand, Republicans and Democrats reached for agreement Thursday on a costly, military-style surge to secure the leaky U.S.-Mexican border and clear the way for Senate passage of legislation giving millions of immigrants a chance at citizenship after years in America's shadows.

click image to enlarge

In this June 6, 2013 file photo, Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., speaks during a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing in Washington. Kirk said Thursday, June 20, 2013, he's been working with colleagues to craft immigration reform that's gaining momentum in the Senate. He says the measure will secure the U.S. border to the south and create a "tough but fair" path to citizenship. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Lawmakers in both parties described a Southern border that would be bristling with law enforcement manpower and technology as a result of legislation at the top of President Barack Obama's second-term domestic policy agenda. The emerging deal called for a doubling of the Border Patrol, with 20,000 new agents, 18 new unmanned surveillance drones, 350 miles of new fencing, and an array of fixed and mobile devices to maintain vigilance.

"This is a border surge. We have militarized our border, almost," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican.

"Boots on the ground, drones in the air," summed up Sen. Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat who has been at the center of efforts to push immigration legislation through the Senate.

The plan was announced by Sens. John Hoeven of North Dakota and Bob Corker of Tennessee, Republicans who had been publicly uncommitted on the legislation. Both said other GOP fence-sitters would also swing behind the measure if the changes were incorporated, and by late in the afternoon, two had done so.

A final vote on the legislation is expected by the end of next week.

The next move would be up to the House, where majority Republicans are overwhelmingly opposed to granting citizenship to immigrants living in the United States illegally. Talks on any final compromise would be held in the fall — if then.

The White House declined to respond to requests for comment on the Senate proposal, even though congressional officials said administration officials were involved in the formal drafting of the terms. Obama met at the White House recently with key Democrats to discuss the measure, and kept apprised of the negotiations while on his just-completed European trip.

Under the emerging deal, an estimated 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally would be eligible to obtain legal status while border security was increased. They could not be awarded green cards, which bestow permanent residency status, until the entire border enhancement plan had been put into place.

That effectively would give the government a decade to set up the additional security, since the legislation envisions a pathway to citizenship that gives immigrants provisional status after six months but requires them to wait at least a decade before they become eligible for green cards.

Despite the changes, the legislation appeared certain to retain the basic contours negotiated over many months by a so-called Gang of Eight, four senators from each party.

Whatever its impact on the bill's prospects, the deal failed to satisfy a group of conservative Senate critics who want proof that the border has been secured before legalization begins, rather than the mere placement of new agents and equipment.

"My impression is this is a promise of future performance and there is no contingency in the form of a trigger" to assure its effectiveness, said John Cornyn, R-Texas.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., also cautioned that the highly touted agreement had not been drafted yet, much less read by members of the Senate and their staffs.

The legislation has a broad array of outside interests pushing for its passage, although two organizations objected to the plan for changes.

(Continued on page 2)

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)