McCain defends border security provisions within Gang of Eight bill

On Tuesday, the Senate voted 84-15 to proceed to debating the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. The Senate will continue to work on the bill throughout June.

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

Some Republicans have complained that the legislation would provide amnesty for the nearly 11 million illegal immigrants before strengthening border enforcement. 

McCain pointed out that there is more than $6 billion appropriated in the bill to be used for new technology to help secure the border. 

The bill also makes permanent legal residence contingent the Department of Homeland Security having in place a way to monitor every segment of the southern border and a 90 percent apprehension rate of people trying to cross illegally. But some Republicans have suggested that the bill gives the DHS too much say over whether the border is secure, leaving Congress powerless to stop the citizenship program if security measures aren’t met.

McCain said that some amendments offered by his GOP colleagues would not work and shouldn’t be supported. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) has introduced the “Results” amendment, which would bar anyone from starting a path to citizenship until border enforcement standards are in full effect, among other things.

“The fact is we can get this border secured and the answer my friends in the Cornyn amendment that we hire 10,000 more border patrol agents is not really an answer,” McCain said. “We need technology. We need to have more drones and sensors on the ground.”

Senate leaders are negotiating amendment votes, which will likely start this week.

In addition to McCain, Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), 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.) make up the Gang of Eight.