Senator John McCain said yesterday that the pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants is a “fundamental element” of the Senate immigration bill, but other portions of the bill “could be adjusted,” emphasizing that the bill’s border-enforcement provisions are malleable.
At an immigration forum hosted by the AFL-CIO, the senator argued that the United States doesn’t “need 20,000 additional Border Patrol agents” and should instead focus on technology that would allow the nation to “survey the border more effectively.” Indeed, McCain said that he voted for the Corker-Hoeven amendment, which will significantly increase border-enforcement resources, “so friends of mine would be comfortable that we are securing the border.”
Senator McCain previously said that the amendment would give the United States “the most militarized border since the fall of the Berlin Wall,” and argued that it “removes any validity to the argument that border security is not sufficient.”
The enforcement portion of the Gang of Eight immigration bill, named for Republican senators Bob Corker (Tenn.) and John Hoeven (N.D.), conditioned the granting of green cards to newly amnestied immigrants ten years from now on the hiring of 20,000 new Border Patrol agents, the completion of a 700-mile border fence, the creation of an entry/exit system to track visa overstays, and universal implementation of E-Verify. The amendment was added to the Gang of Eight’s bill in late June, and the bill passed a few days later on a 68–32 vote.
Critics of the amendment (which have included National Review) warned at the time that the amendment was not nearly all it was cracked up to be, and argued the provision does little to avoid repeating the “legalization now, enforcement later” bait-and-switch of the 1986 amnesty.