During a 71
2-hour hearing, the Judiciary Committee wrestled over 32 proposed changes focused on border security and control as the committee began a long and grueling amendment process that is expect to last weeks.
Proponents managed to resist the most significant changes as a majority of senators voted to reject proposals from GOP members that would require the government to build 700 miles of double-layered fencing and maintain complete operational control of the entire southern border before allowing illegal immigrants to gain citizenship.
As each proposal was defeated, frustration mounted and tempers flared among the most conservative Republicans.
“The committee has voted down every serious border security amendment presented,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who lost his bid to scrap the legislation’s entire border-control section and replace it with his own. “This committee has consistently rejected any attempt to put real teeth in it, and if it does not have that, in my opinion, this bill will not pass.”
In all, the committee adopted 21 amendments, including eight offered by Republicans. Among them was a measure from Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), one of the fiercest critics of the bill, that expanded a requirement that the government apprehend 90 percent of people attempting to cross the border illegally from just high-risk sectors to the entire Southwest border.
Democrats, and two Republicans on the committee who helped negotiate the legislation, hailed the results as evidence that they were committed to a bipartisan process to improve the bill that represents the most far-reaching changes in the nation’s immigration system in three decades.
They characterized the GOP border-security offensive as an effort to lard the bill with unattainable security measures and make it more difficult for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants to gain legal status.
“Senator Cruz is opposed to a path to citizenship,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), one of the eight senators who negotiated the legislation. “No matter what we put in there in terms of border security, he cannot support any bill that has a path to citizenship. . . . Let’s not keep bringing up this false issue that we’re doing nothing on border security.”
Border control was the opening flash point in a debate over an 844-page bill that also contains new measures to increase visas for low- and high-skilled workers and eliminate some categories of family visas, which are likely to spark further clashes among Republicans and Democrats.