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Why Texas Senator’s Border Security Plan Is A Poison Pill

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) on Wednesday proposed a harsh amendment that calls for expensive, stringent border security triggers that must be met before a pathway to legalization can even be considered in the Senate immigration reform bill. If this amendment were to be adopted, it would act as a so-called “poison pill” for the bill. Though it could likely garner one or two more Republican votes, Democrats would drop their support.

Cornyn’s amendment would replace a large swath of the border security portion in an immigration bill that Cornyn’s Republican colleague Sen. Rubio (FL) once touted as having the “toughest enforcement measures in history.”

Here are some of the biggest problems with Cornyn’s amendment:

1. It makes the timetable for legalization and citizenship open-ended and uncertain. If Cornyn’s amendment became law, it would be very difficult for undocumented people to adjust their status to become legal permanent residents. That’s because it requires every single border security benchmark to be achieved before anyone can even apply for permanent residence. Making the path to citizenship highly uncertain and based on factors beyond the control of the individuals themselves could create second class citizens who can’t fully participate in civic life or fully contribute to the economy. Meanwhile, the faster people move from legal status to citizenship, the faster the nation will receive the economic boost that accompanies legalization and citizenship.

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2. It doesn’t give enough time to hire and train suitable Border Patrol officers. The Senate bill has already included measures to implement 3,500 officers, but if the amendment became law, the government would have to hire and train 10,000 border patrol officers, which would be difficult and costly given the short, five-year deadline imposed by this amendment. If implemented, that would mean that there would be more officers along the southern border than there will be U.S. troops officers stationed in Afghanistan.

3. It doesn’t allow time to phase in an exit/entry system. The amendment calls for full implementation of the biometric exit system at all sea and air ports, but potential inconsistencies, security flaws, and mass training sessions involved would make it an untenable request. Overcoming the security pitfalls of a massive new system, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) presented a better amendment that was approved by rolling out a pilot program that would gradually phase in a biometric system first at airports with the “highest volume of international air travel.”