A Republican push to strengthen border-security aspects of a bill revising U.S. immigration law can’t change benchmarks for citizenship for the undocumented, Senator Charles Schumer said today.
“There are some bottom lines,” Schumer said, calling the measure’s border-security benchmarks, or triggers, that must be achieved before any of the 11 million undocumented immigrants can obtain citizenship “a very delicate issue.” Schumer is the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate.
“We’re going to make sure that the triggers cannot be used by someone in future years who is anti-immigration to prevent a path to citizenship,” the New York senator said.
Border security has emerged as a partisan flashpoint on the eve of tomorrow’s scheduled start of Senate debate on the comprehensive rewrite of U.S. immigration law. Republicans say the provisions must be strengthened or the bill won’t get the votes needed from their party to pass Congress.
Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, told reporters yesterday that he doesn’t think the measure he and Schumer crafted with six other senators can succeed in either chamber of Congress, and that he wouldn’t vote for the measure without stronger border-security provisions.
Rubio has said he’s talking with Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican who proposes setting a new set of border security benchmarks that must be reached before undocumented immigrants could become citizens.
Cornyn’s proposal could spur enough resistance from Democrats to scuttle the bill. Rubio hasn’t disclosed details of what he will propose.
House Speaker John Boehner said today he agrees with Rubio on the need for stronger border security.
“I applaud him for his efforts to attempt to strengthen those provisions in the Senate bill,” Boehner, an Ohio Republican, told reporters in Washington.
The Senate measure includes $4.5 billion for tighter border security. It requires 100 percent surveillance and a 90 percent apprehension rate along the U.S.-Mexico border before any undocumented immigrant already in the U.S. could qualify for permanent legal residency and eventual citizenship.
That language isn’t stringent enough, a number of House Republicans said yesterday after a closed-door meeting with Rubio and other Republican senators.
A bipartisan group working to draft immigration legislation in the House has been struggling with another issue: how to handle health-care benefits for undocumented immigrants seeking legal status. The group has agreed to forgo the issue in its proposed bill, according Illinois Democrat Luis Gutierrez, a member of the group.
“We won’t have health-care language,” Gutierrez told reporters today. He said the group is still determining whether to include language similar to the Senate’s bill that doesn’t allow undocumented immigrants to get federal benefits for 10 years.
Raul Labrador, an Idaho Republican, yesterday quit the discussions when the group was moving toward including health-care benefits.
“It bothers me that they do not have to pay for their own health care,” Labrador told reporters yesterday. “If they are going to have the benefit of living in the United States, which is a privilege not a right, they should provide their own health insurance.”
Boehner said his understanding of the discussions is that undocumented immigrants seeking legal status must provide their own health insurance and not rely on subsidized health care.
To contact the reporters on this story: Kathleen Hunter in Washington at email@example.com; Roxana Tiron in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jodi Schneider at email@example.com