The “Gang of Eight” plan is moving its way through Congress, and negotiations are in the works to make the bill palatable for both parties. After hours of late night back-and-forth, the Senate announced an agreement on June 20 to tighten security across the southern portion of the border – an effort to smooth out a major obstacle that could have caused the bill to be stopped in the chamber.
According to Time magazine, Republican Senators John Hoeven , ND, and Bob Croker , TN, worked with the original group that constructed the bill to tighten security and strength the plan’s enforcement policy. This agreement will likely play a major role in changing the minds of members of Congress who previously criticized the bill for its holes. Supporters of the bill have aimed for 70 votes for the legislation, which is expected to be surpassed with the new additions.
Immigrants living in the United States illegally at this time will have to wait to gain a path to U.S. citizenship until appropriate measures are taken to tighten border security, a trade off that was necessary to achieve enough support for the measure.
Border security increase
The Boston Globe reported that the new addition to the bill will include doubling Border Patrol security with 20,000 new agents, 350 miles of new pedestrian fencing in addition to the 350 miles that are already present, 18 new unmanned surveillance drones and a variety of high-tech tools and mobile devices to maintain observation. These tools could include infrared ground sensors and airborne radars.
These increases, however, will come at a cost. The expenses for border security include $25 billion for additional on-site agents, $3 billion for added fencing and $3.2 billion for tools and other measures necessary to enforce the changes.
In addition to these provisions, which would be put in place over a decade, a 10-year path to U.S. citizenship would be available to the 11 million immigrants who are currently living in the United States illegally. Before receiving a permanent resident green card, the individuals will be able to work legally with a provisional status.
These agreements are a huge breakthrough for supporters who believe the changes will result in a strong vote. The deal will add an estimated 15 Republican votes to the positive side of the legislation. Negotiators were required to teeter around demands for both border security and a path to citizenship to provide a comprehensive plan that makes all parties happy and improves immigration reform promptly.
Over the past several days, some politicians were insistent that green cards be made conditional on catching or turning away 90 percent of those who cross the border illegally. Supporters of immigration reform and President Barack Obama quickly shut the idea down in fear that it would only further delay a path to citizenship.
”The question you should ask is, ‘What will immigration reform do for America?”’ Vice President Joe Biden said at a national conference for the League of United Latin American Citizens June 20. ”The answer is clear and resounding: It can and will do great things for America.”
As immigration reform is nearing reality, politicians and experts who previously voiced their concerns have switched gears to back the bipartisan bill spearheaded by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL. According to The Christian Science Monitor, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly made his backing of the bill public Thursday June 20 on his show, “The O’Reilly Factor.”
The newly changed minds of some politicians came at the heels of the release of the economic report by the Congressional Budget Office on June 18, which noted that the savings of the bill estimate about $200 billion in addition to economic improvements and a more robust job market.