A step forward in the push for immigration overhaul came Monday as the Senate got behind a plan to increase security along the US-Mexico border.
In a 67-27 vote, Senators gave preliminary approval to an amendment that will double the number of agents along the border from 20,000 to 40,000 and finish 700 miles of fencing — a plan that wil cost roughly $40 billion over the next 10 years.
"That's a pretty a pretty good showing, especially when you factor in that two Democrats were missing," said Todd Zwillich, Takeaway Washington correspondent.
The border security measure has become a sticking point for many Republicans, who are against a potential path to citizenship for illegal immigrants — a key component of immigration reform.
But in a Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted in May, 58 percent of Americans said they would support a "pathway to citizenship" proposal. Meaning with enough of an incentive, some Republicans may be willing to go along with a comprehensive reform bill.
The comprehensive plan includes implementation of a system that would require employers to electronically verify the work status of everyone they hire and a system to make sure people don't overstay their visas.
But there's a risk in tying immigration reform to the border surge. People in border communities, as well as some Democrats, could resist the plan if it becomes "too draconian," Zwillich said.
The bill still needs to pass the Senate in a final vote expected in the next few weeks before heading to the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. The prospects for immigration reform are much less certain there.
Only 27 percent of Latinos voted for Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election, and some members of the party consider the immigration reform bill a way to mend relations. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, an oft-mentioned candidate for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, supported the bill enthusiastically, according to Reuters.
"This amendment basically now puts into place virtually everything people have been asking me to do about immigration enforcement since I began talking about this issue," Rubio told a convention of the American Society of News Editors. "I think we've run out of things we can to do to support — to improve the border."
The Congressional Budget Office has said the approximate $40 billion price tag of the border surge will be paid for with the added tax dollars collected from newly documented immigrants and their employers. The CBO has said the bill will likely even reduce the deficit. Republicans have countered that most of that money will go to Social Security and will not be an ample repayment.
President Barack Obama expressed his support for the bill during a meeting at the White House Tuesday.
"As I've said before, it's not a bill that represents everything that I would like to see, it represents a compromise," President Obama said. "Now's the time to do it."
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