Sessions charges that immigration bill is ‘amnesty first’

On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed a motion to end debate on proceeding to the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. That vote is expected next Tuesday.

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The bipartisan group of eight senators, known as the Gang of Eight, introduced S. 744, which would create a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the country, toughen border security, create a guest worker program and boost high-skilled immigration.

Some Republicans have complained that the legislation is being rushed through and that it would provide amnesty for those here illegally before strengthening border enforcement.

“Everybody can’t come to America … so you set rules and processes that we can be proud of that are fair and objective,” Sessions said. “But we’ve had from this administration, and the prior administration, too little interest in seeing that the law is enforced. … We can deal with this in a comprehensive immigration bill, but this one doesn’t get us there.”

Last time the Senate tried to pass comprehensive immigration reform in 2007, the effort failed. Sessions said the current bill is “weaker” than the last attempt because it wouldn't require the Department of Homeland Security to enforce immigration laws.

“This bill is far weaker than the 2007 legislation,” Sessions said. “It actually weakens current law in quite a number of significant areas.”

Sessions said that under than 2007 bill, immigrants in the country illegally would have had to pay $8,500 to earn citizenship, but the current bill requires only $2,000 paid overtime.

“In 2007 the payments required were at least $8,500. This bill is $2,000 … and that’s payments stretched over time,” Sessions said. “So it’s difficult for me to accept that people are earning their citizenship and they’re paying a price for it.”

Sessions also complained that special interest groups were heavily involved in drafting the bill. He said that prevented major amendments to be adopted during the Senate Judiciary Committee markup because it would compromise “the agreement.”

“What’s wrong is, members of the United States Senate need to be representing the national interest … not the special interests,” Sessions said.

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