Is A Revived Border Fence Tough Enough To Coax ‘Yes’ Votes From Senate Conservatives On Immigration Reform?
June 21, 2013 by Ben Bullard
Two days ago, it looked as though an effort by conservatives to force completion of a 700-mile fence along the U.S.-Mexico border had died on the Senate floor.
But Thursday, it appeared that a revived, retooled border security amendment had made its way back into the discussion, with some Senate Republicans — at least those who are eager to see an immigration reform bill passed — tacking the proposal back onto the Gang of Eight’s controversial, yet bipartisan legislation.
The move is designed to appease conservatives who’ve sworn they won’t support the immigration package on a final vote, especially after Tuesday’s failure of a proposal that would have mandated the border fence, which has been partially constructed in parts of the far Southwest, be finished.
The overall bill still includes a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal aliens who’ve crossed the border from Mexico to seek better economic fortunes, and many Senate conservatives have promised there’s no amount of sweetening the deal — by throwing in border fences or anything else — that will persuade them to vote for an immigration package that grants amnesty to illegal aliens.
Still, it was a Republican — Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee — who helped re-sell Senate conservatives on a reworked version of the border fence amendment. “For people who are concerned about border security, once they see what is in this bill, it’s almost overkill,” he said Thursday.
Aside from the fence itself, Corker’s border security markup apparently promises to double the number of patrol agents working the border region and to budget additional money for drone surveillance.
Gang of Eight Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), whose stock among conservatives has taken a devastating hit as his support for immigration reform (read: amnesty) has increased, also touted the Corker plan Thursday, as did Vice President Joe Biden.
Meanwhile, unwavering conservatives in the Senate don’t look like they can be persuaded. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said amnesty in any form will depress current wages and unload a flood of unskilled labor on the American economy that wouldn’t abate for more than a decade.
“This legislation — if it were to pass — the wages of American workers will fall for the next 12 years,” he warned. “They will be lower than inflation rates… It’s going to increase unemployment and it’s going to pull down wages. That is exactly the wrong thing that ought to be happening at this time. How in the world can we justify passing a bill that hammers the American working man and woman that’s out trying to feed a family?”
Session got his information from a Congressional Budget Office report released this week that attempts to estimate the long-term economic effect the immigration bill would have on the United States if it becomes law.
Among other findings, the CBO “…expect[s] that a greater number of immigrants with lower skills than with higher skills would be added to the workforce, slightly pushing down the average wage for the labor force as a whole… However, CBO and JCT [the Joint Committee on Taxation] expect that currently unauthorized workers who would obtain legal status under S. 744 would see an increase in their average wages… [An] increase in the average wage would not occur for a dozen years.”