Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., came to an agreement Thursday on a border security amendment for the Senate's immigration bill that could attract more Republican senators to support the comprehensive overhaul.
The amendment, which Senate staffers confirmed was still being drafted, would require the Department of Homeland Security to build 700 more miles of border fence along the U.S.-Mexican border, as well as double the number of troops patrolling the border, before immigrants who entered the country illegally could receive green cards.
The "trigger" amendment was sought to quell conservative complaints in the Senate that the "gang of eight's" current plan merely requires DHS to submit a border security plan rather than bolster operational control. And a Congressional Budget Office assessment of the bill estimated the legislation would reduce the deficit, but only make the border 25 percent more secure.
"The amendment puts the plan in the bill and we want to make sure we have metrics," Hoeven said this week when describing why the amendment was a crucial part of the immigration process. "It has to be measurable so we know the border is secure and folks know it is attainable."
Senators who drafted the immigration proposal have said they'd like to secure 70 votes for the comprehensive immigration reform bill, meaning they need 15 Republicans to sign on to the bill. The goal is that if a broad coalition of GOP senators come on board, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives will feel more pressure to take up comprehensive reform that includes a path to citizenship for immigrants who came to the country illegally.
"The better we do in the Senate the more likely the House will take up our bill. I believe that," says Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
But already, some of the most conservative advocacy groups and lawmakers have dismissed the latest border security proposal as a "fig leaf"
"NumbersUSA notified all our members this morning asking them to call their Senators to oppose the Corker-Hoeven amendment which is a desperate political move by pro-amnesty forces to provide cover to pass a bill that would otherwise not pass," Roy Beck, president of the anti-immigration group NumbersUSA, said in a release. "The amendment still allows the bill to give amnesty work permits and legalization before any additional enforcement."