#CIRfloor: Immigration Reform Bill Includes Strong Border Protections

From The Senate Judiciary Committee Majority Staff
S. 744: The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act

Immigration Reform Bill Includes Strong Border Protections

Both Republican and Democratic Senators acknowledge the pending immigration reform bill will take extraordinary steps to further secure the nation’s borders.

“For the last several months – even before a bill was drafted – we have heard some people argue that we cannot proceed with immigration reform until we do more to secure our borders.  Now that we have a bill, a bill that takes extraordinary steps to further secure an already strong border, we continue to hear that we must wait.”  -- Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee, Senate Floor, June 12, 2013

“I am confident that we will secure this border by taking the measures that will be required in this legislation…Most importantly, [through its mandatory E-Verify provisions] this legislation dries up the magnet that pulls people into this country where they believe they can find work.”  -- Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), Senate Floor, June 12, 2013

The bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform bill moves beyond an “enforcement first, enforcement only” approach to reforming the nation’s immigration system.

Border security was the focus of the Judiciary Committee’s first of five markup sessions on the pending bill.  It was also called into focus at several hearings held by the Senate Judiciary Committee this year.

In April, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano testified that the border provisions in the bill “will allow us to sustain and build on our progress and ensure a border region that is safe and thriving.”  She continued, “Too often, the ‘border security first’ refrain has served as an excuse for failing to address overall immigration reform.  The insistence that an overhaul of our immigration laws must wait until the border is secure fails to recognize that immigration reform promotes border security.  Moreover, the argument ignores the unprecedented progress we have made.”

The border security provisions of the bill received thorough vetting and debate in the Judiciary Committee, and were the subject of dozens of amendments.  During the Committee’s consideration of the legislation, 42 amendments relating to border security issues were considered, including 25 offered by Democratic Senators and 17 offered by Republican Senators. Of the 42 amendments considered, 29 were adopted, all but one with bipartisan support.  Among those adopted were an amendment by Senator Grassley to expand the bill’s border security goals and metrics to cover the entire Southern border; an amendment by Senator Feinstein to strengthen maritime border enforcement; and an amendment by Senator Hatch to establish biometric exit processing at the 10 most frequented U.S. airports.

The immigration reform bill includes strong provisions to protect and secure the nation’s borders.

On Tuesday, Senator Patrick Leahy, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, and Senator Tom Carper, who chairs the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, sent a Dear Colleague letter, describing the progress that has been made in border enforcement and noting the strong provisions contained in the bill.  They wrote, “We must ensure that extreme or unworkable proposals do not become a barrier to moving forward on comprehensive reforms that are also critical to securing our borders.”

The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act will establish tough triggers that will ensure additional border security steps are taken. The bill commits as much as $6.5 billion to border security initiatives, contains extensive provisions to create a mandatory E-Verify system, and boosts the number of Customs and Border Protection officers.  These requirements are in addition to the 650 miles of fencing that have already been built over the last eight years.  

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