The Senate passed a $600 million border security bill last night by voice vote, just before leaving for August recess. The bill, introduced Thursday afternoon by Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), funds 1,500 new enforcement agents and additional unmanned drones along the border.
Some Republicans were initially reluctant to support the bill. John McCain (R-Ariz.) attempted to amend the bill to add provisions from the 10-point border security plan he co-wrote with fellow Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl (R). The McCain-Kyl plan would have been funded out of the 2009 stimulus budget, which critics said would hurt middle class families. (The bill passed last night is fully paid for through increases in visa fees for foreign companies that help bring temporary skilled workers to the U.S.)
Schumer rejected the amendments, but McCain agreed to support the bill anyway.
The Senate bill passed last night will have to be approved by the House before it can go to the president to be signed into law. The House seems likely to support it: it passed a $701 bill to fund border security improvements last week.
Republicans have said repeatedly they will not support comprehensive reform until gains in border security are made. Now that Democrats in both chambers have proven they support border security measures, Democrats hope it signals bipartisan support to work on other immigration reform measures.
But some immigrants rights group question whether the bill was necessary or simply an attempt to pander to Republican politicians. Instead, Democrats should push for comprehensive reform, Deepak Bhargava, executive director of Center for Community Change, said in a press release yesterday:
It is extremely disappointing to see Congress fall for Republicans’ wholly manufactured allegations of an insecure border. Every study and report shows the border has never been safer. Crime statistics, free of political bias, show crime has never been lower. Our federal budget shows spending at the border has never been higher. [...]
Republicans shouldn’t be allowed to take Congress’ attention away from the issues that truly deserve their energies, namely a comprehensive overhaul of our broken, outdated immigration system. No amount of additional spending will ever satisfy people who refuse to look at the issue factually.
After passage of the bill, Schumer said he plans to focus on comprehensive immigration reform.
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