The Senate yesterday easily approved an immigration bill that allows 10 million illegal aliens to become citizens, doubles the flow of legal immigration each year and will cost U.S. taxpayers an estimated $54 billion over the next 10 years.
The leaders of both parties hailed the 62-36 passage as a historic success.
Majority Leader Bill Frist said the vote represented the “very best” of the Senate.
“This is a success for the American people,” the Tennessee Republican said. “It is a success for people who hope to participate someday in that American dream.”
Four Democrats—Sens. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, Byron L. Dorgan of North Dakota, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan—joined 32 of the chamber’s 55 Republicans, including several members of the GOP leadership, to vote against the bill. Three of the four Democrats who opposed the bill face voters in November.
Opponents said that the Senate is ignoring clear public will and that the bill would have disastrous consequences for decades to come.
“We will never solve the problem of illegal immigration by rewarding those who break our laws,” said Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican. “We must stop illegal immigration by securing the border and creating a temporary-worker program that does not reward illegal behavior with a clear path to citizenship and voting rights.”
Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, the No. 3 Republican in the Senate, said the bill “puts the cart before the horse” because it gives citizenship rights to illegals, grants full-blown amnesty to employers and opens the borders to millions of new immigrants each year.
“The horse here, that I’ve been hearing from my constituents, is we need a border-security bill first,” said Mr. Santorum, who spends much of his time campaigning for re-election this fall. “And we need a program that makes sure that our country’s borders are secure and that they are not a threat either to our national security or economic security.”
The bill also includes approval for 370 miles of new fencing along the border, 500 miles of vehicle barriers and authorization of 3,000 new Border Patrol agents this year.
But conservatives in Congress—like many voters—are skeptical that the federal government will make good on promises to secure the border and enforce the laws. They suspect that immigration reform is headed for a repeat of the 1986 reforms that granted amnesty to 3 million aliens and promised to seal the border. Ultimately, the laws were never enforced and 3 million illegals were replaced with some 12 million new illegals.
“The amnesty provisions and the fact that the enforcement provisions will not kick in immediately mean to me that this will not solve the illegal immigration problem,” Sen. David Vitter, Louisiana Republican, said today. “This will, in fact, make the illegal immigration problem much bigger.”
Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, said yesterday he has been amazed by the Senate’s inability to do what voters clearly want.
“There seems to me to be a sense of surreality here, where people in the Senate just are not listening to what the American people are telling us,” he said. “We’ve tried, through the course of the amendments that have been offered that people standing here have offered, to highlight some of the problems that we have identified and which I believe are responsive to the concerns that we’ve heard from our constituents.”
VOTING FOR THE BILL
Akaka (D); Baucus (D); Bayh (D); Bennett (R); Biden (D); Bingaman (D); Boxer (D); Brownback (R); Cantwell (D); Carper (D); Chafee (R); Clinton (D); Coleman (R); Collins (R); Conrad (D); Craig (R); Dayton (D); DeWine (R); Dodd (D); Domenici (R); Durbin (D); Feingold (D); Feinstein (D); Frist (R); Graham (R); Gregg (R); Hagel (R); Harkin (D); Inouye (D); Jeffords (I); Johnson (D); Kennedy (D); Kerry (D); Kohl (D); Landrieu (D); Lautenberg (D); Leahy (D); Levin (D); Lieberman (D); Lincoln (D); Lugar (R); Martinez (R); McCain (R); McConnell (R); Menendez (D); Mikulski (D); Murkowski (R); Murray (D); Nelson (D, Fla.); Obama (D); Pryor (D); Reed (D); Reid (D); Sarbanes (D); Schumer (D); Smith (R); Snowe (R); Specter (R); Stevens (R); Voinovich (R); Warner (R); Wyden (D)
VOTING AGAINST THE BILL
Alexander (R); Allard (R); Allen (R); Bond (R); Bunning (R); Burns (R); Burr (R); Byrd (D); Chambliss (R); Coburn (R); Cochran (R); Cornyn (R); Crapo (R); DeMint (R); Dole (R); Dorgan (D); Ensign (R); Enzi (R); Grassley (R); Hatch (R); Hutchison (R); Inhofe (R); Isakson (R); Kyl (R); Lott (R); Nelson (D, Neb.); Roberts (R); Santorum (R); Sessions (R); Shelby (R); Stabenow (D); Sununu (R); Talent (R); Thomas (R); Thune (R); Vitter (R)
Rockefeller (D); Salazar (D)
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch)—Business groups don’t think the Senate’s version of a wide-ranging immigration bill is perfect, but they like it a lot better than the border-enforcement bill passed by the House in December.
The Senate in a 62-36 vote Thursday afternoon approved a bill that would create a guest-worker program, tighten the border and, most controversially, give millions of illegal immigrants already in the country the chance to eventually gain U.S. citizenship.
“While some significant issues remain to be resolved, this legislation meets our major priorities and we are hopeful that our concerns can be resolved by House and Senate conferees,” said Randel Johnson, vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in a written statement.
The Chamber has spearheaded a fight against the House version of the bill, which would require employers to verify the legal status of all existing employees as well as new hires. It would also make all illegal aliens currently in the country felons, offering neither a path to citizenship nor a guest-worker program.