After a “border surge” deal which would include an additional tens of thousands of border agents and hundreds of miles of fence to bolster security in the proposed immigration bill, Republican Senator Marco Rubio was asked by Telemundo’s Lori Montenegro what he would say to colleagues still skeptical about the bill.
“To my colleagues that are still opposed I have two questions,” said the Florida Republican on Thursday. “Number one – what else can we do, what else can we do in the border? Finish the fence, 20,ooo agents, the E-verify system before people are employed, the entry-exit system, and all the technology that we are going to implement? What else can we do?”
The second point, Rubio said, was that “if we don’t do anything, what’s left? What we have right now is a disaster, with 11 million human beings living here illegally; a legal immigration system that does not work well and a total lack of security – that’s the alternative.”
And Arizona Republican Senator John McCain told Telemundo’s Montenegro “there are no more excuses” for those who opposed the bill due to border security reasons.
Senators Rubio and McCain were referring to the announcement on Thursday of a border deal brokered by two Republican Senators, Bob Corker of Tennessee and John Hoeven of North Dakota, to address one of the bill’s main criticisms – the fact that it does not do enough to secure the border. Though the original Senate Gang of Eight bill included over $5 billion dollars for increased border security measures as well as strict employment verification and an entry/exit tracking system, many (mainly Republican) legislators say it does not do enough to secure the border.
After the “border surge” deal was announced, some Republicans like Illinois Senator Mark Kirk who had criticized the bill said they would support it. This, however, was not the case with others, such as Texas Senator Ted Cruz or Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions.
“This amendment doesn’t seem to me to accomplish many of the key issues I’ve talked about all along,” said Sessions in a press conference after the “border surge” was announced.
For the Senators trying to pass the immigration bill, it all boils down to whether they will get enough votes, and on Thursday, some sounded optimistic. “Barring something unexpected,” said New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer on the Senate floor, “we have the makings of a strong bipartisan vote on immigration reform.”
While the more stringent and costly border measures are seen by most as the only way to get a majority in the Senate to support the bill, they were swiftly criticized by some immigrant groups on Thursday.
“This is an outrageous plan that was struck without consulting with people who live and work on the border,”said Fernando Garcia, Executive Director of the Texas-based Border Network for Human Rights. “The most obscene element of the plan is that it would create a militarized border between allied nations where there is no military conflict,” he added.