Cornyn: Gang of Eight immigration bill undermines border security

Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), the Senate’s second-ranking Republican, said the comprehensive immigration reform bill unveiled last week does not do enough to secure the nation’s borders.

Republicans are focusing on the national security implications of immigration reform in the wake of last week’s bombing in Boston.

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Many conservatives have said their support of comprehensive immigration reform will hinge on whether the borders are adequately secured before granting a path to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants.

The bill would establish criteria for border security standards, which must be met before granting provisional legal status to the nation’s illegal immigrants.

Cornyn said Monday that the pending legislation would actually undermine border security.

“As I read it, the border security provisions in this bill would necessarily mean that the border patrol will shift resources away, in a preannounced fashion, from most of the border sectors in order to reach the goals for only a few,” he said Monday during a Judiciary Committee hearing on the bill. “We can only imagine what the transnational criminal organizations that move drugs, people and contraband across our border will do in response.”

Cornyn is the senior Republican on the immigration, refugees and border security subcommittee, which is chaired by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), a member of the Gang of Eight.

Resurgent Republic, a Republican research firm, has found support among conservatives for immigration reform will depend on the issue of border security.

Its study of focus groups in Iowa and South Carolina reported that conservatives say stronger border enforcement is absolutely necessary before granting a path to legal residency or citizenship to illegal immigrants.

Cornyn on Monday also criticized the bill for failing to address “critical needs” at land-based points of entry.

He said the legislation does not do enough to improve the system for tracking visas exiting the country. At least 40 percent of the illegal immigrants living in the United States have stayed longer than allowed by their visas.

“This is perhaps one of the most concerning areas of the bill, because since 1996, there has been a requirement mandated by Congress for an entry-exit system. Unfortunately, while the entry system works well, the exit system is non-functional,” Cornyn said.

“I want to learn more about the rationale of why the Department of Homeland Security has been unable to comply with this long-standing mandate of the Congress, and why the Department continues to drag its feet in implementing the law already on the books, which requires a biometric exit.

If we want to get serious about preventing another wave of visa overstays, we have to get this exit system right,” he added.