WASHINGTON (AP) — Landmark immigration legislation is doomed to fail in Congress unless border-security provisions are greatly strengthened, Republican senators bluntly warned on Tuesday.
“If in fact the American people can’t trust that the border is controlled, you’re never going to be able to pass this bill,” declared Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
His admonishment, joined by those of other GOP lawmakers, came as both Democratic and Republican senators filed a flurry of amendments ahead of the first votes Thursday in a separate committee on the far-reaching bill to deal with an estimated 11 million immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally and the millions more who might be expected to try to enter in the future. Some of the amendments could destroy the legislation’s prospects by upending the carefully crafted deal negotiated over months by four Republican and four Democratic senators, supporters say.
Border security was the major sticking point on Tuesday.
“If we’re going to get immigration reform through, if you’re going to get it through the House, we’re going to have to do a whole lot more on what is the definition of a controlled border than what is in this bill,” said Coburn.
Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Ron Johnson, R-Wis., voiced similar concerns at a hearing to examine border security provisions of the bill.
Paul, a tea party favorite who has voiced support for comprehensive immigration overhaul, insisted his goal in raising questions about the bill is to make it better so it can pass not just the Democratic-controlled Senate but also the Republican-run House. He denied that he’s out to kill the measure or slow it down.
“I want to be constructive in making the bill strong enough that conservatives, myself included, conservative Republicans in the House, will vote for this, because I think immigration reform is something we should do,” Paul said.
“If it’s not any stronger than this I don’t see it getting through the House.”