Cornyn: If immigration bill fails, blame opposition to border security measures

Later Tuesday, the Senate will vote on whether to proceed to the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. Cornyn said he would support that motion, but hopes changes are made to the bill.

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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.

"This bill will make our country safer, and I believe it will make our country stronger," Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said after Cornyn spoke Tuesday. "[And] it strikes the right balance of those who are here undocumented to come out of the shadows."

Some Republicans have complained that the legislation would provide amnesty over 10 years for the nearly 11 million residents in the country illegally before strengthening border enforcement. 

The bill makes permanent legal residence contingent the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) having 100 percent situational awareness at every segment of the southern border and a 90 percent apprehension rate. Cornyn said he has an amendment — the Results amendment — that agrees with the Gang of Eight border security standards, but would guarantee the standards are met before amnesty is granted to anyone.

“I wonder why it is that they can’t take yes for an answer. If we agree on the standards they set, why won’t they agree to measures of implementation to meet those standards set?” Cornyn said. “We agree on all of these realistic goals. The difference again is my amendment guarantees results, while the Gang of Eight’s does not.”

Some GOP senators have suggested that the bill gives DHS too much say over whether the border is secure, leaving Congress powerless to stop the amnesty program if security measures aren’t met.

Sens. Cornyn and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) have said the bill is similar to the last immigration reform measure in 1986 because it “legalizes first and enforces later.”

“In other words the federal government has always said the right things to the American people, but it has never lived up to its promises,” Cornyn said. “This is doable, but we need a leverage to compel the bureaucracy and Congress to get the result the American people want.”

Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) comprise the Gang of Eight.