Senate rejects Vitter amendment on biometric entry-exist system

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) called Vitter's amendment "prohibitively expensive" and urged colleagues to vote against it.

Republican Gang of Eight Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), John McCain (Ariz.), Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Jeff Flake (Ariz.) voted against Vitter's amendment, along with GOP Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Susan Collins (Maine) and Kelley Ayotte (N.H.). Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor (Ark.) voted for the entry-exit system amendment.

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The Senate is expected to continue amendment work on the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act throughout June. 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 said Vitter’s amendment could “delay” the immigration process for years. He also pointed out that the underlying bill has entry-exit measures, including the implementation of a system at sea and air ports.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) pointed out that an effective entry-exist system is already suppose to be in place but that previous administrations have “thumbed their noses at the laws on the books.” He added that the Gang of Eight bill weakens this law by saying entry-exit systems need to be in place at only some points of entrance and it doesn’t require it to be a biometric system, which uses finger prints.

“This is a border security issue,” Grassley said of Vitter’s amendment. “It’s a national security issue and without this measure we are not in control of our borders.”

Republicans have warned that some border security amendments have to be adopted in order to gain more GOP support for final passage of the bill.

The Senate voted on other amendments Tuesday afternoon — all were held to a 60-vote threshold for passage.

Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D-La.) amendment was the first amendment accepted to the bill. Her amendment passed on by voice-vote and clarifies U.S. international adoption laws to ensure adoptees are granted U.S. citizenship. It would also repeal the pre-adoption parental visitation requirement for automatic citizenship and allow just one parent to visit the country of origin of the adoptee, rather than both adoptive parents.

Sen. Jon Tester’s (D-Mont.) amendment received a 94-0 vote. It expands the new Border Oversight Task Force to include tribal members so they can make border security recommendations relating to Native American tribes on the Northern and Southern border.

Earlier Tuesday, the Senate rejected an amendment from Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), which would have required the construction of more border fencing before illegal immigrants were given provisional legal status.