The Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday voted down an amendment to require certification of border security before a bill to grant legal status and a "path to citizenship" to the estimated 11-12 million people here illegally could take effect.
The amendment, offered by Iowa Republican Charles Grassley, would have required the Homeland Security secretary to certify that the southern border was secure for six months before any illegal immigrants could receive legal status. Republicans Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina — two members of the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" that has sponsored the bill — joined with the committee's Democrats to defeat the amendment 12-6.
"We are going to make sure that we have border security first," Grassley said. "The legislation doesn't do it." Grassley, the committee's ranking Republican, did get approved an amendment to require complete surveillance and 90-percent effectiveness of enforcement along the entire 1,969-mile border. The original bill would apply the 90-percent effectiveness requirement only to high-risk sectors of the border. If border officials have not reached the surveillance and enforcement goals after five years, the bill would create a border commission to advise the Department of Homeland Security on how to reach its goals.
Other Grassley amendments adopted by the committee would add the Senate and House Judiciary Committees to the list of bodies the secretary of Homeland Security must report to on implementation of its border strategy, and an annual auditing requirement for the Comprehensive Immigration Trust Fund. In all, the committee approved some two-dozen amendments, including six offered by Republican members. They include proposals to: direct the Citizen and Immigration Service Ombudsman to assist victims of crimes committed near the border; add private land representatives to the Department of Homeland Security Oversight Task Force; and require bi-annual reports on the progress of the Southern Border Security Strategy. An amendment offered by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) to add human trafficking to the list of violent crimes that must be reported by the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program was also approved.
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