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Published On: Sun, May 12th, 2013

Immigration bill continues to be ‘amended’ in the Senate, Ted Cruz calls for tougher border security

A bill to enact dramatic changes to the nation’s immigration system and put some 11 million illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship is facing its first congressional test. The immigration reform will continue its journey on Monday.

“It is a better bill now than it was this morning,” said Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona on Friday. Flake is a member of the committee and the “Gang of Eight” senators who wrote the measure.

On bipartisan votes Thursday, the panel rejected conservatives’ attempts to thwart implementation of a centerpiece of the bill – a pathway to U.S. citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants.

Arizona protesters 2010 photo/Chzz via wikimedia commons

Arizona protesters 2010 photo/Chzz via wikimedia commons

The panel, composed of 10 Democrats and eight Republicans, accepted 21 relatively modest amendments that focus largely on border security and increased congressional oversight. All but one amendment were agreed to on bipartisan votes.

Eleven other amendments were rejected or withdrawn, many of them Republican bids to bolster border security in ways that went far beyond the steps spelled out in the bill, while also delaying or even killing proposals to legalize undocumented immigrants.

Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York, another committee and Gang of Eight member agreed, hailing the amendments as “good-faith improvements…that make our proposal stronger.”

As currently written, the bill would boost funding for border security, revamp visa programs to allow for more high- and low-skilled workers and chart a 13-year path to citizenship for most of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the country.

The committee is expected to complete work on the bill by the end of this month, sending it to the full Senate to face a tougher test. That debate could extend through June or longer.

Backers will need the support of at least 60 of the chamber’s 100 members to clear what are expected to be Republican-led procedural roadblocks.

Although the Republican Party has urged its members to embrace comprehensive immigration reform as a way to reach out to the growing number of Hispanic voters, a number of Republicans have resisted.

Many Republicans favor an incremental approach, one that would focus more on strengthening the 1,969-mile (3,170-km) U.S.-Mexican border. They want to do so without a pathway to citizenship, which critics denounce as “amnesty”, for those who entered the United States illegally or overstayed visas.

“The committee has voted down every serious border security amendment today,” said Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz. “If it doesn’t have real border security, it will not pass (Congress).”

Schumer angrily rejected Cruz’s characterization, saying, “It’s tough as nails.”

In roughly eight hours, the committee plowed through about 30 of the 300 amendments submitted.

“I plan to ask many questions throughout this process,” Iowa Senator Charles Grassley warned. “I want to know how the bill doesn’t repeat the mistakes of the past.”

Grassley, in a statement, promised an “arduous” and “robust” debate.

Grassley followed up with an amendment to require that the Obama administration achieve full control of illegal immigration at every part of the U.S. border before any undocumented people now in the United States could be considered for legal status.

“This amendment would set a standard that would basically delay probably forever” the legalization of the 11 million, Schumer said.

The committee defeated a move by Cruz to delay legalizing illegal immigrants until 40,000 more border patrol agents were hired to join the 21,000 already there. Opponents said that would cost as much as $40 billion and take 10 years to achieve.

 

 

 

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About the Author

- Catherine "Kaye" Wonderhouse, a proud descendant of the Wunderhaus family is the Colorado Correspondent who will add more coverage, interviews and reports from this midwest area.

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