The Senate voted 39-54 on Tuesday to reject an amendment to the immigration reform bill that would have required 350 miles of new fencing on the Southern border before the federal government could grant provisional legal status to immigrants.
The amendment from Sen. John ThuneJohn ThuneSenate confirms first nominees of Trump era Senate gears up for battle over Trump's CIA pick GOP, Dems hear different things from Trump MORE (R-S.D.) would have prevented the government from granting provisional immigrant status until the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has built 350 miles of Southern border fencing. Another 350 miles of fencing would have to be constructed before those with provisional legal status could apply for a green card.
Thune's amendment needed 60 votes to pass. Republican Gang of Eight Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamThe Hill's 12:30 Report Graham: Trump would make mistake in not punishing Russia Graham to vote for Trump’s EPA pick MORE (S.C.), John McCainJohn McCainSenate committee to vote Monday on Tillerson Trump fails to mention Clinton in inaugural address Hillary Clinton under microscope at inauguration MORE (Ariz.), Marco RubioMarco RubioGOP, Dems hear different things from Trump Senate committee to vote Monday on Tillerson Tillerson met with top State official: report MORE (Fla.) and Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeLive coverage of Trump's inauguration Under Trump, the disruptors return to Washington (that's a good thing) 9 GOP senators Trump must watch out for MORE (Ariz.) voted against the border fence amendment, while Democratic Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinOvernight Cybersecurity: Dems split on Manning decision | Assange looking to make deal What we learned from Rick Perry's confirmation hearing Manning commutation sparks Democratic criticism MORE (W.Va.) and Mark PryorMark PryorCotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm Top Democrats are no advocates for DC statehood MORE (Ark.) voted for it. Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiWhat we learned from Rick Perry's confirmation hearing Perry regrets saying he would abolish Energy Department Trump education pick to face Warren, Sanders MORE (R-Alaska) also voted against Thune's amendment.
Thune said his amendment was necessary because the current bill only makes “promises” of enforcement. He said building 350 miles of fence would be a “tangible trigger” to show the Senate is serious about border security before legalization.
The Senate is considering the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, and amendment work on the bill is expected to continue throughout June. Three more amendment votes were scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.
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.
McCain, a Gang of Eight member, said his colleagues who are so concerned about border security should listen to those on the ground.
“I hope that my colleagues that are concerned about border security, that they will pay attention to what the head of border security is asking for,” McCain said, while urging a "no" vote on Thune’s amendment. “Fencing is important — surveillance is more important.”
Some Republicans have complained that the legislation would provide amnesty in 10 to 13 years for the nearly 11 million illegal residents before strengthening border enforcement.
“Border security is what the people demand,” Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGOP senator: Trump budget chief could face confirmation 'problems' Jeff Sessions will protect life Justice, FBI to be investigated over Clinton probes MORE (R-Iowa) said Tuesday. “This bill has weak border security provisions.”
Supporters of the Gang of Eight bill say it includes an additional $6.5 billion for border enforcement measures, but most of the funding is for new technology such as drones, sensors, cameras and helicopters, as opposed to more fencing.
Sen. Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuFive unanswered questions after Trump's upset victory Pavlich: O’Keefe a true journalist Trump’s implosion could cost GOP in Louisiana Senate race MORE (D-La.), who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee on Homeland Security, called Thune’s fence “dumb” during debate last week.
“I will vote against Sen. Thune’s amendment because I am not going to waste taxpayer money on a dumb fence, and that is what his fence would be,” Landrieu said. “We need to build a smart fence.”