Republicans are preparing a border security amendment to the bipartisan Senate immigration bill and plan to release it as early as next week.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who has been helping draft the amendment behind the scenes, told a radio host Thursday that it would tighten border security language in the bill (S 744) in order to win the support of Republican senators.
“A bunch of senators have been working on it,” he said on Hugh Hewitt’s show. “A lot of Republicans want to be supportive of something but need to be able to go back home and tell people that they have taken serious steps to make sure this never happens again.”
Rubio, who is part of the bipartisan Senate group sponsoring the bill, said the amendment would be key to passage. “It is going to have to be in there or this is not going to pass,” he said.
As it stands now, the bill would require the Department of Homeland Security to prepare a plan to secure the border and apprehend 90 percent of border crossers in three of the nine southern border sectors. The plan must be in place before immigrants living in the country illegally can become legal permanent residents.
Republicans have said the current bill is too weak because it would not call on the government to show results before undocumented immigrants are legalized. They also complain that it would give too much discretion to the Department of Homeland Security to assess when the border is secure. Rubio said senators have spoken with border patrol agents and will incorporate some of their ideas into the amendment.
“I don’t want to leave the border plan up to the Department of Homeland Security and Janet Napolitano,” Rubio said. “I think what we need to do is detail at a minimum what the border plan should be in detail.”
It remains to be seen how Democrats will react to the Rubio proposal once it’s drafted. Democratic leaders have said they are open to tighter border security language in the immigration measure, but they have rejected a proposal from Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.
Cornyn’s amendment would require the border be completely sealed and that the government prove it has caught 90 percent of potential border crossers across the entire border as a precondition for granting permanent residency status to undocumented immigrants, a crucial step towards citizenship.
But Cornyn’s plan has failed to win support from several key Republicans, notably Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who are part of the bipartisan group that wrote the bill.
Republicans said this week they were working on an alternative measure that could bring more Republicans on board without losing support from Democrats. Several bill sponsors hope to win 70 or more votes in the Senate to give the bill momentum as it moves to the House.