An amendment brought forward Thursday by Sen. Bob Corker has been described as having a realistic chance of garnering support from Republicans for a controversial, sweeping overhaul of U.S. immigration policy, potentially putting it on a path for approval in the Senate.
The proposal aims to secure the U.S.-Mexico border like never before.
Word of Corker's amendment, written in conjunction with Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., began circulating in Washington, D.C., news publications Thursday morning. By the afternoon, the senator and former Chattanooga mayor presented the proposal to colleagues on the Senate floor and expressed his hope that the amendment as written would be able to address and satisfy "sensibilities on both sides" of the aisle.
"I do think the American people have asked us if we pass an immigration bill off the Senate floor, to do everything that we can to ensure we have secured the border," Corker said. "That's what people in Tennessee have asked for … and I think that's what this amendment does."
The proposal, called the Corker-Hoeven Southern Border Security Amendment, would require a strict set of security measures to be implemented for a decade before allowing any additional measures that would allow unlawful U.S. immigrants to become eligible for lawful permanent residence, better known as "green card" status.
The plan would double the number of border agents on the U.S.-Mexico border, adding 20,000 agents to the 18,500 already stationed. The number would be enough for an agent to be stationed every 1,000 feet.
The amendment also calls for an additional 300 miles of fencing along the border, in addition to the 350 miles of fence already in place. A mandatory employment verification system would be implemented for employers, and an electronic entry-and-exit system would be put in place at both airports and seaports granting access into the U.S. The plan also calls for new equipment to be provided to U.S. border patrols, a move Corker said would enable patrols with "100 percent awareness" to keep the border secure.
Corker acknowledged the wide-ranging scope of the amendment's provisions, described in several reports as a "border surge." Appearing for an interview on CNBC's "Daily Rundown," the senator said the security proposals were "almost overkill" for their far-reaching nature.
"For people who are concerned about border security, once they see what's in this bill, it's almost overkill," Corker said. "I think if that's the issue people have, everyone working together has come up with a way to deal with the issue. I hope we can send it over to the House with some momentum."
The amendment would be costly, with at least $30 billion being marked for the added border agents. According to a Washington Post report, Hoeven said funding for the proposal would be offset by monies saved from enacting the larger immigration bill, citing a recent Congressional Budget Office analysis. Earlier in the week, CBO officials projected that the immigration bill would trim nearly $200 billion from the deficit over the next decade because of an expanded labor force, which would enable increases in tax revenue.
The senators will now turn toward gaining support from their fellow Republicans before a vote is taken on the bill as soon as next week.
On Thursday, Sen. Lamar Alexander indicated support for the amendment but did not say if he would back it as part of final legislation. Last week, Alexander co-sponsored a similar amendment put forward by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, which failed to gain support with Democrats.
"Sen. Corker is demonstrating real leadership on my No. 1 priority for the immigration bill, which is strengthening provisions to secure our border," Alexander said in a brief statement emailed to Nooga.com.
Both senators voted to open debate on the immigration bill on June 11.
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