More than 20 Republicans joined the GOP members of the Gang of 8 to support the motion to proceed to the immigration bill. Supporting a motion to begin debate isn’t the same as supporting final passage, however. Many GOP Senators have indicated that the bill’s border security provisions need to be strengthened to win their support. TX Sen. John Cornyn is drafting an amendment that could determine the fate of the Senate bill.
Cornyn’s amendment would make securing the border a “hard trigger” before the path to legal permanent residency were available to current illegal immigrants. In the current legislation, newly legalized immigrants could get permanent legal status, i.e. a green card, ten years after the law is enacted. The bill appropriates additional money for border security and sets targets, but sets no other conditions on the path to citizenship.
Essentially, the Department of Homeland Security could submit a plan to secure the border and then do nothing to implement it for the next decade. The 11 million illegals currently in the country could become citizens13, even though the border remained as porous as it is today.
Although Cornyn’s amendment would still allow illegal immigrants to become legalized residents, it would block a path to citizenship unless the border were secured. Once the border was secured, the path to citizenship would reopen.
“[The amendment] will put us in a position where we can look the American people in the face and say we are going to secure the border,” GOP Leader Mitch McConnell said. “It will be a very, very important amendment.”
In a sense, Cornyn’s amendment simply holds Sen. Rubio and the other Gang members to the promises they made at the beginning of the immigration discussion. The GOP negotiators, especially, promised that the grand compromise would secure the borders and ensure we don’t have an illegal immigration problem again in the future.