The Senate has rejected an amendment to the Gang of Eight bill calling for a “border security first” approach to immigration reform. A motion to table the amendment, which was authored by Republican senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa and previously defeated in the Judiciary Committee, passed 57 to 43, largely on party lines. The measure would have required the Department of Homeland Security to demonstarate effective security of the southern border for six months before illegal immigration are granted legal status. The Gang’s proposal would provide legal status before additional border security measures are measured or implemented.
The Republican members of the Gang of Eight — senators John McCain (Ariz.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) – and Republican senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska joined with the Democrats to block the amendment. Senators Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) and Mark Pryor (D., Ark.) supported the amendment along with most Republicans, including Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, who recently announced her support for the Gang’s proposal.
The vote comes after Democratic Senate majority leader Harry Reid refused to allow a simple majority vote on Grassley’s amendment. Grassley complained on the Senate floor that Reid’s motion to table the amendment “proves that this so-called open and fair process is a farce,” and “is not the right way to start off on a very important bill.”
Polling indicates that, although most Americans support a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, they would prefer that border security measures are put in place before legal status is granted.