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This Week in Immigration Reform: Border Security’s the Name of the Game

U.S. border patrol sign on a gate at a Texas ranch

Make no mistake, the week coming up is make or break for current immigration reform efforts. The Senate is set to vote on S.744 this week. Here’s a look at what got us here:

The biggest news to come out of the Senate is related to border security amendments. The Senate voted down amendments from Sens. Rand Paul and John Thune and tabled Sen. John Cornyn’s RESULTS amendment. Instead of the Sen. Cornyn’s trigger amendment, a bipartisan group of senators rallied behind a “compromise amendment” that emerged late last week. The amendment, proposed by Republican Sens. Bob Corker and John Hoeven, is referred to as a “border surge” that would “double the size of the border patrol, require 700 miles of border fencing, and require a detailed comprehensive south border security plan including high-tech protections.”

While Corker described the bill as “almost overkill,” the most crucial tenet of the amendment for Democrats was that border security would not “be used as a pretext to block the path to citizenship.” The compromise, and amendment’s eventual passage, is expected to push the number of votes to 70 and brings along support of unexpected allies like Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly. Not surprisingly, Sen. Cornyn was not pleased with the changes. 

In addition to the ever present border security debates, there are many amendments to the bill yet to be considered.  Sen. Mary Landrieu was upset by the slow process in the Senate, calling the unending arguments from opponents on non-starters “obnoxious,” and proposed that 24 “noncontroversial” amendments be considered first. Separate from this list, one amendment to watch is an effort to include special protections for female immigrant workers, who may be disadvantaged under the new merit based system.  

Related to the Senate bill, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its overall positive score of S.744.  Called a “huge momentum boost” by Sen. Chuck Schumer, the CBO estimated that the bill would cut the deficit by $175 billion in the next decade and by $670 billion in the 10 years following. While the deficit reduction has garnered the most attention, Washington Post’s Wonkblog has a thorough look at the other components and arguments against the score.

If you’re trying to map out who-falls-where along the voting spectrum in the Senate, Washington Post’s The Fix has the most comprehensive list seen thus far (including a switch from Sen. Mark Kirk to “yes” and Sen. Rand Paul to “no”).

On the House side, all attention was focused on Speaker John Boehner, who said he will abide by the unofficial Hastert rule, which dictates that a majority of the majority party must support a bill to bring it to a House vote. The National Journal sums up why current immigration reform efforts are in danger in the lower chamber.

On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee approved the controversial enforcement-only SAFE Act as well as the AG Act’s temporary farm worker program. The committee will continue markup this week of its E-Verify and high-skilled immigration bills. Even further to the right on reform than the House Judiciary Committee is Rep. Steve King, who coordinated an anti-citizenship rally at the Capitol last Wednesday.

And lastly, in case you missed it:

  • The New York Times profiles the role of the White House in S.744 while the New Yorker profiles the “Gang of Eight.”
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Secretary John Morton resigned.
  • A new USA Today/Pew Research Center poll shows while a majority of Americans support legalization for undocumented immigrants, they are “conflicted” by the details.
  • As of May 31, almost one year after announcing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), USCIS has received 539,128 applications.
  • New research from the Metropolitan Policy Program looks at temporary worker programs in the United States and the age of DACA applicants.

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