A handful of conservative Republicans have banded together to lead the opposition of immigration reform in the Senate, mounting a battle to strike down an amendment they say does not address border security.
The amendment promises to add 20,000 border patrol agents in the next seven years but provides no funding, strikes down a visa exit and entry system using biometrics in favor of traditional documents using photographs, and pulls back on demands for double-fencing along the border.
Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama has been dubbed the Paul Revere of the opposition and spent hours on the Senate floor last week and on the Sunday talk shows criticizing the measure. He cited a budget report that predicts expanding the rolls of legal immigration will increase unemployment and lower wages
"We’ll just give amnesty to everybody here and we’ll pass a law and we promise it will fix things and we don’t really worry whether it does or not. And I can tell you it won’t. It won’t fix it," Sessions said during a floor speech Friday.
The opponents, dubbed by Politico as the "Gang of Five,"
also include Sens. Mike Lee of Utah, David Vitter of Louisiana, Ted Cruz of Texas, and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma.
Vitter spent the weekend reading the 1,000-page bill, and tweeting out messages to his followers revealing riders and new spending measures. Cruz led a House tea party caucus rally and called the bill "utterly toothless," while the group banded together for a final press conference urging their Republican colleagues to oppose the measure.
Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA, a group that favors limits on immigration, said the Republican opposition may be small in size, but the message is resonating across the country.
"They’ve been very effective," Beck told Politico. "They have a voice that the grass roots are really listening to."
The resistance may not be enough to stop the bill from passing the Senate in a vote expected later this week, but the loopholes exposed by it are expected to lead the talking points of opposition when the House takes up reform issues later this summer.
Immigration reform supporters have insisted the Senate bill would tighten border security as a condition for allowing the legalization of 11 million illegal immigrants already in the U.S. But conservative opponents insist the bill language instead weakens current immigration law.
The border security amendment
crafted by Republican Sens. John Hoeven of North Dakota and Bob Corker of Tennessee pledges to spend $30 billion that includes new single fencing along the Southern border, as well as new technology that would raise the alarm when the border is compromised.
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