Senate rejects border security amendment to immigration bill

The Senate voted 57-43 on Thursday to table an amendment to the immigration reform bill that would have required increased border security before granting temporary legal status for illegal immigrants. [WATCH VIDEO]

The amendment from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) would have prevented the government from granting provisional immigrant status until the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary has maintained effective control of the borders for six months.

Grassley blasted Democrats for burying his proposal, which was the first change to the Gang of Eight's immigration bill to be considered on the Senate floor.

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“This vote proves this ‘open and fair process’ is a farce,” Grassley said. “The majority is afraid of having a true vote on my amendment. … This is not the right way to start off on a very important bill.”

Grassley said the immigration bill repeats the mistakes made in the 1986 overhaul by “legalizing first and securing the border later, if ever.” 

Sens. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) were the only Democrats who voted against tabling the amendment.

Republicans senators from the Gang of Eight — Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), John McCain (Ariz.) and Jeff Flake (Ariz.) — all voted to table Grassley's amendment, along with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

Gang of Eight member Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) was among those who urged senators to vote down Grassley’s border security plan.

“It says that the 11 million people living in the shadows cannot even get the provisional status to work and travel until the secretary of Homeland Security says the border is completely secure and we know that will take years,” Schumer said. “The problem is very simple, what do we do for five or six years until the border is fully secure?”

The bipartisan bill from the Gang of Eight, S. 744, 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 would provide amnesty in 13 years for the nearly 11 million residents in the U.S. illegally before strengthening border enforcement.

The bill already makes permanent legal residence contingent on Homeland Security having 100 percent situational awareness at every segment of the Southern border and a 90 percent apprehension rate of those trying to cross illegally.

But some Republicans have suggested that the bill gives the administrations too much say over whether the border is secure, leaving Congress powerless to stop the amnesty program if security measures aren’t met.

Those supporting the bill say it doesn’t include amnesty since people here illegally would be forced to undergo a background check, pay a fine and back taxes, learn English, and wait in line for a green card. The bill also appropriates an additional $6.5 billion for border security and enforcement measures.

This article was updated at 4:45 p.m.