Senate negotiators are closing in on a deal to beef up the border security requirements in the proposed overhaul of U.S. immigration laws, aides close to the talks confirmed to TIME. The agreement, which would likely pave the way for the bill’s smooth passage through the Senate, could be announced as early as Thursday afternoon.
The proposal would approximately double the number of agents patrolling the Southern border, from roughly 20,000 to 40,000, and provide for 700 miles of new fencing, according to aides close to the talks. Democratic and Republican Senators have been haggling all week over the language of the emerging plan, put forth by GOP Senators John Hoeven of North Dakota and Bob Corker of Tennessee, that could entice Republicans unsatisfied with the measure’s current security provisions without alienating Democrats, who worry that tougher standards could jeopardize the pathway to citizenship it provides.
From the outset of the immigration debate, border security has loomed as an obstacle to securing Republican votes. The agreement could garner up to a dozen or more Republican votes, aides say. That would give the bill the bipartisan momentum its architects have sought in order to put pressure on the Republican-controlled House to pass it. On Thursday, Illinois Republican Mark Kirk said he would support the agreement — an announcement that could augur several other Republicans jumping on board.
More as this story develops.