Though bad weather delayed some Senators from voting, the Senate voted 67 to 27 to stop blocking a compromise border security measure, thus paving the way for a probable vote on the Senate immigration bill by the end of the week.
“There’s a long hard road ahead, but today’s vote puts the wind at our back,” tweeted Democratic New York Senator Chuck Schumer, one of the Gang of Eight who drafted the Senate bill.
Frank Sharry, Executive Director of the pro-immigration reform America’s Voice, said in a statement that “immigration reform is on track to pass by more than a 2-1 margin later this week,” adding that “11 million immigrants are closer to the day when they can live freely and contribute fully to the country they call home.”
The Senate will now vote on this “border surge” amendment on Wednesday. The Corker-Hoeven amendment adds about 20,000 border patrol agents, over 700 additional miles of border fence, a national E-verify system and an entry/exit system to track those who enter the U.S. on a temporary basis. Senators like Florida Republican Marco Rubio had insisted many in the Republican party would not support a bill without these added measures – which come with an additional $5 billion dollar price tag. But Rubio and other Senators insist this is necessary to ensure the reform bill works to reduce undocumented immigration and improve safety while creating a pathway to legalization for the nation’s 11 million undocumented.
The addition of more stringent border security measures have been met with strong criticism by those who say the border is already safe and the flows of undocumented immigration are at historic lows. “Given the well over $30 billion allocated to enforcement, we expect the legislation will advance expeditiously,” said in a statement Kica Matos, of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement. “Republicans can no longer hide behind border security as an obstacle to supporting reform,” she added.
The momentum for voting on legislation in the next few weeks has been gaining traction from all quarters. Today President Obama hosted a meeting with entrepreneurs, business leaders and CEOs, citing recent studies to make the case that immigration reform can reduce the deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars, as well as help replenish Social Security funds and raise revenues.
Alex Torrenegra, a Colombian immigrant who has founded several companies including VoiceBunny.com, attended the White House meeting. Torrenegra says his company would greatly benefit from a more modernized immigration system, since half of his company is in Colombia and half is here, but current laws make it difficult for many of his colleagues to come to the U.S. “We have to put pressure on legislators, especially in the House, to make sure the law is passed,” Torrenegra says.
But though the more strict border security measures have garnered support from an increasing number of Republicans – even Arizona Governor Jan Brewer – others like Senator Ted Cruz remain steadfastly opposed to any legislation with a pathway to citizenship. Cruz says the immigration reform bill is still “amnesty.”
Still, advocates of immigration reform are pretty confident that Cruz is in the minority and a majority in the Senate will vote for an immigration reform bill, possibly by the end of the week.