Border Security: Will it Block a Final Deal on Immigration?

The two parties have yet to find a sweet spot between tougher security standards and supporters' insistence on preserving the core of the bill.

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Eric Thayer / REUTERS

A U.S. Border Patrol agent looks out at the desert near Falfurrias, Texas, on March 29, 2013.

As the bill to rewrite U.S. immigration laws edges closer to a vote in the Senate, its architects are wrestling with a familiar dilemma: how far should they go to mollify critics and attract new supporters, without wrecking the bipartisan compromise that took months to forge?

In the days since the landmark legislation made its way to the Senate floor, border security has emerged as a flashpoint. GOP Senator Marco Rubio, one of eight negotiators to craft the legislation and its chief envoy to conservatives, says the bill can’t pass without tougher border security. While Democrats aren’t happy about Rubio’s pronouncement, they’re willing to make concessions to lure teetering members and win a striking bipartisan majority that could pave the way for passage in the Republican-controlled House.

But despite ongoing discussions, the two sides have yet to find a sweet spot between Republicans’ desire for tougher security standards and negotiators’ insistence on preserving the core of the bill.

(PHOTOS: Fatal Frontier, The Perils of Crossing the Rio Grande)

Last week much of the GOP rallied around an amendment filed by John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Senate Republican, which would block undocumented immigrants from applying for green cards until government agencies certify that the border is secure. Cornyn’s amendment has stringent standards for measuring a secure border, including a 90% apprehension rate for illegal crossings, an operational biometric ID system and the capability to fully monitor the 1,900-mile Southern border. Supporters balked, arguing the plan would jeopardize the path to citizenship, an essential component of the bill. Both Democrats and Republicans called the proposal a “poison pill.”

Cornyn tells TIME he hopes his amendment will receive a vote on Wednesday, though he acknowledged it didn’t have the votes to pass yet. “One non-negotiable item,” he says, is tying the legalization process to tougher border enforcement, “which guarantees that everybody is highly incentivized to get the border security piece done. Absent that, I think it’s just another hollow promise.”

Since this is a common refrain on the GOP side, negotiators have been hunting for an alternative that can satisfy Republicans without squandering Democratic support. Late Monday, they began zeroing in on a similar proposal crafted by a pair of GOP Senators, Tennessee’s Bob Corker and John Hoeven of North Dakota. Their amendment, whose language has not been introduced, would lay out similarly tough but perhaps achievable standards for workplace enforcement and border security.

(MORE: CBO: Senate Immigration Plan Reduces Deficit, Would Put 8 Million On Path To Legal Status)

In interviews at the Capitol on Tuesday, senators involved in, or briefed on, the talks declined to go into specifics about the negotiations. “By tomorrow, we will have either signs of progress or a lack of progress,” says Republican Senator John McCain. But his colleague Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told TIME the proposal held promise. “I know the difference between an amendment that’s offered by somebody who will never get to yes versus somebody who could,” says Graham, who like McCain is a member of the so-called Gang of Eight that negotiated the immigration bill. “I think they want to get to yes if they can.”

“I think there is room for border security improvement,” Graham added, thronged by reporters outside a room in the Capitol where his colleagues were helping themselves to a lunch buffet. But it has to meet two conditions, he says: “It has to be affordable, and any new trigger has to be achievable.”

Senators from both parties couldn’t say Tuesday whether the emerging alternative to Cornyn’s proposal would be any more palatable to Democrats. Supporters of immigration reform are leery of stalling tactics, such as senators who dangle their support in order to open sluggish negotiations designed to stymie the bill’s progress. Democrats are hoping to avoid a protracted floor fight that kindles the kind of fervent grassroots opposition to the bill that has yet to materialize. And they fear a lengthy battle could also create a legislative bottleneck — “as anyone who’s been here 10 minutes knows,” says Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill – crowding out other time-sensitive priorities like student loans in the process.

(MORE: Immigration Reform Q&A with Senator Lindsey Graham)

Not everyone appears interested in appeasing Republicans. Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, says the bipartisan bill could pass the Senate now. While supporters hope to win passage of the measure by July 4, Reid is threatening to file cloture in the coming days to wrap up debate and hold a final vote — with or without wavering Republicans onboard.

But the members who negotiated the measure aren’t keen to ram it through the Senate. Eking out a narrow win on a near-party line vote, they reason, would only stiffen opposition on the other side of the Capitol. Instead, they hope to amass a formidable bipartisan majority that imbues the bill with momentum as it heads to the Republican-controlled House. Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday he doesn’t “see any way” to move a bill without support from a majority of Republicans. But senators are betting that a formidable margin would marshal national pressure and force his hand. “We’re trying to get as many votes as possible,” McCain says.

“Border security is the key to Republican votes. It’s the key to my vote,” says Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. “Senator Corker, Senator Hoeven and others are looking for additional ways to do that that Democrats can accept. Senator Cornyn has come up with a plan that many Democrats cannot accept. So we’re continuing to work on that.”

MORE: Despite Early Success, Immigration Bill Faces Uncertain Path Forward

46 comments
AllisioRex
AllisioRex

We have to stop this amnesty. We don't need 20-30 millions spiteful,. extreme low class people  good for nothing  other than manufacturing millions of illegitimate anti-American Welfare children.  I hope that the Republicans in the House will bury this bill and no amnesty and no Citizenship. Being an American means more than being a U.S. Citizen. Only White Europeans qualify to become Americans because being an American means having inherited  our European-based culture.moral conduct and personal responsibility and obey our American institutions created by our founding fathers. Presently, to become a U.S. Citizen you don't have to do any of this. You can still wave the flags of your own backward Country,where you came from, stick with  people of  your own racial and cultural background, speak your language or the language of your parents, threaten White Americans and make a mockery of all of our institutions, tell us that we don't belong here and that we have to go back to Europe and still with all this you can become a United States Citizen with all the Welfare,food stamps, Section 8, set aside bonuses and preferential treatment!!!  Third world, non-White immigration legal and illegal must stop. Demand it.

BillNelson
BillNelson

IF YOU WANT THE IMMIGRATION AMNESTY BILL TO PASS, THEN SIT BACK AND RELAX. IF NOT, DO SOMETHING TO STOP IT!
-
How many on this site have called their 2 Senators? THE SENATE WILL BE DEBATING AND VOTING ON THE AMNESTY BILL IN THE NEXT TWO WEEKS OR SO.

Just complaining here does no good. Believe it or not contacting your elected officials can help IF ENOUGH people do it. That means YOU! Get some guts and do it!

Call your 2 Senators NOW and tell them to vote NO on S.744 the Amnesty bill. (Here's a toll-free number: 888-978-3094). You can even leave a message after hours with most Senators 24 hours a day.

Even if you have Pro-amnesty Senators and Congressman, what do you have to lose by e-mailing your Senators? You would only be losing 5 minutes of your time on the internet complaining.

Just tell them NO to ANY Amnesty! That's all you have to say!

Amnesty is any legislation or act that removes the illegal status from illegal aliens and allows them to remain in these United States. Under any terms or conditions, legalization is amnesty and amnesty is legalization. We remember 1986.

Fool me once, shame on you; Fool me twice, shame on me.

ahandout
ahandout

Amnesty will reward those people who have the most disregard for our laws.  That's the kind of people that the Democrats already have.  Can we move them all to Chicago and the White House? 

We are going to enforce border security right after we get around to enforcing the laws from the last amnesty in 1986. 

MrObvious
MrObvious

You have to speculate if the hard core of the GOP really want immigration reform; considering the stipulations I'd say no. Let them go the way of the Dodo bird.

Lawgiver0
Lawgiver0

Just have the people from all over the world copy the current situation (immigration reform) in the US, come here illegally with their kids, and just demand for another immigration reform a few years down the road.

You have kids who want to be law makers when they grow up? Illegal immigration will be the issue that they too will deal with, and I want to help make sure that they do.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

Out of curiosity in light of the new CBO report why would you not want this bill to pass, unless you are a bigot who doesn't want more people of color in the country?

CBO: Senate immigration plan reduces the deficit by $197 billion from 2013 to 2023.



Lawgiver0
Lawgiver0

As a legal immigrant I'll let you in on a little secret: it doesn't matter when you are legalized, the only thing that matters is when you actually set foot in the US. Now vs a few years from now.

If immigration reform passes, I will began to consider helping families from my old village, in fact I'll advocate for the whole world, to come to this country illegally, I'll make sure they all bring children too. Why? Because they want to have a better future for their families, they want to help the economy... Etc etc etc do you actually want me to write the whole list? You can Google it. Oh oh almost forgot... they all have an American dream.

jmac
jmac

As Obama speaks in Berlin, home of The Wall, Republican's keep The Fence, The Fence, The Fence drumbeating in their minds.  Maybe they want it to show up on satellite photos like the Great Wall of China.   Something to brag about?   Or have they Luntzed The Fence to morph into a vague "border security"?   Progress?  

yodadog
yodadog

We keep being told by this government that the American people want this. I personally know very few people that support this, and have yet to see a poll that supports that claim either. If border security sinks this, that's fine. It will pass when they do as the people say should be done-send them home and secure the borders, period. It would have broad popular support in that form. We do not need another 11 million illegal citizens.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

Even if, and with this Senate it is a big if, any bill can pass it will die in the House. 

The weakest Speaker of our times can't anything does with out his TPer minority signing off. And they won't. 

retiredvet
retiredvet

I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that (as usual) nothing will get done.

CharlesEdwardBrown
CharlesEdwardBrown

We can't trust the Federal Government to enforce our immigration laws. We tried Amnesty in 1986 and now we have 11 million more illegal aliens living in the United States. Call your Senators and Congressmen. Tell them NO AMNESTY and No Pathway to US Citizenship for illegal aliens. We need our laws enforced. Secure the border, deport all illegal aliens and change the law to make it impossible for an illegal alien to get or keep a job in the United States.

Lawgiver0
Lawgiver0

If you are not in the US and all you want is a better future for your children, do you not want this "better future" to start ASAP? ie copy the 11 million illegals, come here illegally and demand for legalization later?

carotexas
carotexas

@Paul,nnto I agree with you on your feeling of the House and Senate, but I think this bill will pass.  I do not know when, or how weak it will be but I think it is important to both sides that it does.  I think that the TPer minority do have survival instincts and some way it will pass.



tommyudo
tommyudo

@retiredvet 


I'd say that it's a pretty sturdy limb you are on. In it's current manifestation, the GOP would rather deny Obama a signing ceremony of an immigration bill that provides a fair path towards citizenship and have it rebound in his favor in the Latino community, than vote for it and hope that the GOP might siphon off a few Latino votes in future elections. Most Latino voters know that the GOP doesn't offer a plan that is a benefit to their community.

deconstructiva
deconstructiva

@CharlesEdwardBrown 

It's solemnly amusing to watch Charlie Brown repeat here (as has done before) demanding to secure the border and deport those illegal aliens without ever specifying how to do it.

tom.litton
tom.litton

@CharlesEdwardBrown We can't trust the federal government to enforce our immigration laws, therefore we must have the federal government enforce our immigration laws?

I think i spotted a problem with your plan...

paulejb
paulejb

@mantisdragon91 @paulejb 

Sure, Bugs! All those new people on welfare, food stamps and Medicaid will will save trillions. You're a genius!

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@Lawgiver0 More importantly seeing as immigration is the main driver of growth and prosperity in the US. Why would we want to restrict or discourage it?

Lawgiver0
Lawgiver0

The keyword here is ANOTHER.

cent-fan
cent-fan

@carotexas @Paul,nnto The Republicans in the House are dead meat if they pass anything, even if it's yellow vests for crossing guards.  They can't be seen as "moving government along". 

 Government is only there to pass out checks after your house trailer is flooded when you park it six inches from the Mississippi in one of those left wing climate change events but beyond that it should disappear... until it shouldn't. 

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

My guess is that the survival instincts they have make in more likely that they will block any bill not less.

The people who elected them do not want anything passed that isn't punitive. Anything less and they'll be labled a RINO and primaried.

ahandout
ahandout

@mantisdragon91 @Lawgiver0  If you want more people, just tell the left to stop with all its doomsday scare tactics about overpopulation. Where the leftist popular culture drives young people to not value having children.  And, return to a family friendly economy, not one where both parents have to work to make ends meet.

The 1960s counter culture of the left has culminated in a society that is killing itself off by not reproducing.  Now you want to import 50 million illegals who are illiterate and unskilled to do what?

ahandout
ahandout

@mantisdragon91 @Lawgiver0  I threw you a "like" bone because this one of the funniest exchanges I have ever read on a forum.  Thanks for the entertainment, mantis.

Lawgiver0
Lawgiver0

You can always say something is better but if it creates the same exact problems again in a few years why would you go through it, for exercise?

Self deport would work if given the appropriate mechanism, like paying fed taxes, we all know what would happen if we don't pay, thus we pay. But what happens if one does not self deport? Nothing, thus no one self deports. I got ideas for the gop to kill two issues with one stone but I cannot tell you yet cuz I want my name to be in Wikipedia for the one who came up with this.

Is it common sense for you that all fed laws in the US apply to eeverybody? So right now they put the application of the existing immigration laws on hold for the 11 million illegals, go to the congress and trying to invent new laws that would cover them. Does that sound illegal to you?

tom.litton
tom.litton

@Lawgiver0 Last i heard, e-verify was in the senate bill.  Some say it isn't strong enough, but it is there. 

Besides the calculus for whether a bill should be supported is simple:  Is it better than what we have now.  I believe this bill is.  It's hard to imagine any bill that isn't.  Hell repealing all immigration laws is far to close to being as good was what we have now.  

What this bill has (correct me if i'm wrong):

1.  Some kind of e-verify system that makes it easier for employers to check legal status of potential employers.

2.  Stronger border security.

3. Makes it easier for employers to hire foreign workers when they can't find an american worker.  This includes high skilled and low skilled workers. 

4.  Allows Illegals that are *never* going to be deported to remain in the US legally.


The last one is the key point.  These people are never going to be deported, not in any significant numbers.  How is leaving there status as illegal going to help anyone?  What your looking for is a solution that could only work a couple of decades ago.  

Yes we need to control the border, but that only helps going forward.  It doesn't solve the problem from the fact that we haven't controlled the border well enough for the last couple of decades.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@Lawgiver0 I support it for the economic reasons. 107 billion in deficit reduction is not something we can afford to pass up.

Lawgiver0
Lawgiver0

Your original point of going after the employers is not in the bill, logically you wouldn't support it right, yet you do. This is attacking you? Again, my point about you, principle? Common sense?

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@Lawgiver0 How cute. Attacking me while repeating the point I originally made about going after the employers.

Lawgiver0
Lawgiver0

So it's common sense for our gov to solve the issue of immigration by legalizing the illegals and acknowledging they will have to deal with this same issue again in the future?

You told me earlier that I should attack the core of this problem: "heavy fine for employers who hire illegals", which is not the core of this bill, which you support. Again, no principles huh.

You are more of a liberal arts type of a person who has nothing to do with math science or even conservation right? Develop as fast as you can because you'll be better off now and worry about the environment later as events occur. Do you even like weather forecast? Yep, lots of common sense but no principle.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@Lawgiver0 No to a person with common sense. You deal with the issues at hand and worry about eventualities when they occur.

Lawgiver0
Lawgiver0

Yes of course to a person with no principles.

Lawgiver0
Lawgiver0

No. You mean more illegal Mexicans left here than entered during the recession but no change from all the other unable-to-just-jump-the-fence countries. Can you imagine if we are next to Syria? So you conclude that if we had zero jobs we would have zero illegal Syrian immigrants?

Are you a person of principle? If they legalize them now why not legalize all future illegals?

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@Lawgiver0 Than your drive is atypical of what motivates most illegal immigrants. They are attracted to low skill jobs that require no documentation. This has been substantiated by the simple fact that at the height of our last recession we had more illegal immigrants leaving the country than were entering it.

Lawgiver0
Lawgiver0

Job or no job my drive is a better future for my kids, not myself, plus it's a lot safer here, even without jobs at least we don't risk our lives everyday. Plus US k-12 is free?

So even there is zero job for me, those pluses are drive enough for me and my fellow villagers to come here illegally.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@Lawgiver0 Simple economics tell you that as long as their are jobs to be had people will continue to come illegally. If you really wanted to discourage illegal immigration you would attack the problem at its source. Heavy penalties for business that hire illegal immigrants. If it costs more for businesses when they are caught employing illegals than they gain by undercutting legal workers, then the source of jobs dries up. No jobs means much less motivation for people to risk life and limb to come here illegally.

Lawgiver0
Lawgiver0

I realize that. But your goal and a legal orderly process cannot go hand in hand huh. Still can't distinguishes between a legal and illegal immigrant?

Had I known that the US gov is trying to legalize the illegals, I would have came here illegally myself instead of wasting many years waiting.