On Monday night, the Senate moved forward a key provision predicted to make or break its ability to pass comprehensive immigration reform. The amendment, offered by Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and John Hoeven (R-ND) and known as the “border surge” amendment, would add 20,000 border patrol agents, require the completion of 700 miles of fencing, and add 18 unmanned surveillance aircraft along the southern border. It escaped a filibuster by a vote of 67 to 27, with several Republicans joining the Democratic majority.
At a price tag of $30 billion to fund the agents alone, critics have said the amendment amounts to unnecessary spending — particularly given the fact that illegal immigration is at net zero, and the border is more secure than Republicans mandated it be in a 2007 reform effort. Still, the amendment enjoys broad support from progressives because it preserves one of the key aspects of the reform effort: a pathway to citizenship.
Shortly before the vote on Monday, the Congressional Budget Office released updated statistics on the bill given the adoption of the Corker-Hoeven amendment. It found that the amendment “would reduce the net flow of unauthorized residents to the United States relative to” the underlying bill. It also found that it would reduce the deficit slightly less than the underlying bill, given the spending required to implement the new border measures, in the first decade.
The vote on Monday night was for cloture — the ability to end debate on the amendment and move forward to voting for it. The Senate will now proceed to debate and then vote on the amendment itself. It is expected to pass.
On Wednesday, the Senate approved the amendment by a vote of 69 to 29.