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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Senate Immigration Bill Emphasizes Border Security

Matt Pressberg |
April 10, 2013 | 7:50 p.m. PDT

Executive Producer

The proposed legislation would beef up security along the U.S.-Mexico border. (Allen Ormond/Flickr)
The proposed legislation would beef up security along the U.S.-Mexico border. (Allen Ormond/Flickr)
A bipartisan group in the United States Senate is close to an agreement on a comprehensive immigration bill that would require significant improvements to border security in order to clear a path to citizenship for immigrants currently without legal authorization to reside in the country.

The bill expands the Department of Homeland Security, requiring it to establish effective surveillance over 100 percent of the U.S.-Mexico border and to stop 90 percent of illegal border crossings in certain hot spots, according to two unnamed government aides with knowledge of the plan. As the Washington Post reports:

“Under the terms of the proposal, DHS would submit a plan to reach the new milestones within nine months of the immigration legislation becoming law. The bill authorizes $3 billion to help the agency deploy new surveillance technology, including aerial drones for treacherous border regions, and build new fencing.

Another $4 billion would go toward expanding a workplace screening system known as E-Verify and setting up a border entry-exit tracking system to identify foreigners who have overstayed their visas, Senate aides said.”

Once DHS has presented its plan, the government could begin to grant provisional legal status to some of the 11 million unauthorized immigrants living and working in the U.S. This would be the necessary first step on a path to citizenship, which could arrive no earlier than 13 years from the bill’s passage for current residents without legal status, according to Reuters.

Tying immigration status to border security is intended to appeal to law-and-order Republican legislators, but this proposal, which includes a significant expansion of the federal government and the security state, might be controversial to the deficit and liberty hawk wings of the party. This huge investment in enhancing the security of the southwestern border of the United States also comes one year after Pew Research found that net migration from Mexico had fallen to zero, which was largely attributed to high unemployment in many of those border states.

However, having emerged after drawn-out talks among of a group of eight Senators, half Republicans, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, the bill is expected to move to the next step on the road to potentially becoming law. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), a member of the bipartisan committee, hopes the bill can be debated by the full Senate in late May.

Read more of Neon Tommy’s coverage of immigration here.

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