Wednesday, July 25, 2007

More on the Kyl proposal: Kyl, it looks like, is teaming up with Lindsey Graham, a fellow "grand bargainer," and offering this new Border Security First Act:

The Border Security First Act of 2007 requires and provides funding for the following, among other things:

  • Operational control over 100 percent of the U.S.-Mexico land border
  • 23,000 Border Patrol agents hired, trained, and reporting for duty
  • 4 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles & 105 ground-based radar and camera towers
  • 300 miles of vehicle barriers & 700 miles of border fencing
  • A permanent end to the “catch-and-release” policy with 45,000 detention beds.

The act contains additional border and interior enforcement provisions necessary for stemming the tide of illegal immigration, restricting immigration benefits to lawbreakers, and further protecting the homeland from terrorists and criminals. Examples of these provisions include:

  • Increased Personnel: Requires a total of 14,500 new Customs & Border Patrol (CBP) agents through Fiscal Year 2012 – to approximately 30,000 CBP agents overall – as well as increased hires of new Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents for interior and workplace enforcement.
  • Sanctuary Cities: Prohibits cities from banning the obtaining of information on immigration status by their own law enforcement agencies.
  • Operation Jump Start/National Guard: Provides additional funding for Operation Jump Start to maintain a National Guard presence along the Southern border.
  • Criminal Aliens: Strengthens laws to deny immigration benefits to aggravated felons, gang members, terrorists, sex offenders, and child abusers. The bill also expands the Institutional Removal Program and gives DHS the ability to detain criminal aliens for an extended period of time before they can be removed.
  • State and Local Law Enforcement: Gives state and local law enforcement new authorities to detain illegal aliens and transfer them into DHS custody. Moreover, it allows state and local law enforcement authorities to use homeland security grants for 287(g) training and provides funding to cover the costs of detaining and transporting criminal aliens.
  • Visa Overstayers: Requires DHS to detain aliens who willfully overstay their period of authorized admission for more than 60 days.
  • Illegal Reentry: Increases criminal penalties and sets mandatory minimum prison sentences for aliens who have been removed and illegally re-enter our country.
  • Expedited Removal: Restricts the impact of outdated court injunctions that currently prevent DHS from certain illegal immigrants into expedited removal and returning them to their country of origin as soon as circumstances allow.
  • US-VISIT and Entry Inspection: Clarifies DHS’s authority to collect biometric entry and exit data at U.S. ports of entry, as well as requires the Department to provide Congress a timeline for implementing US-VISIT at all land border points of entry.
  • Employment Eligibility Verification: Requires DHS to enhance the Basic Pilot Program to help facilitate broader use by employers as well as improved accuracy and efficiency.
  • Liability Protection for Reporting Suspicious Threats: Grants civil liability protection to those who report possible threats to our nation’s transportation system.

Other Republican Senators are backing this measure as well.

According to Graham's press release, this measure is also being offered as an amendment to a Department of Homeland Security funding bill. Graham lists the following senators as cosponsors of the measure: Judd Gregg (R-New Hampshire), John Cornyn (R-TX), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), John McCain (R-AZ), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Mel Martinez (R-FL), Arlen Specter (R-PA), and John Sununu (R-NH).

Could this measure be one way to attempt to reconcile the "grand bargainers" (e.g. Graham, Kyl, McCain, and Martinez) and opponents of the "bargain" (e.g. Sessions and Sununu)? This measure also gives McConnell an opening to reconcile himself with both sides of the Republican caucus over immigration. It also may help Graham with Republicans back in South Carolina who were alienated over his support of the "bargain."

Will it get any Democratic backing? Will it get to a vote? If it does come to the floor as a bill, could we see any amendments on it?

UPDATE: But will Bush veto a Homeland Security bill that has this measure attached to it? According to CQ, the administration has already threatened to veto the Senate HS bill because it's $2.3 billion over the president's requested budget. Furthermore, Sen. Gregg says that the administration opposes this "border security first" measure.
Senate Democratic leadership seems skeptical, too, according to FOX (e.a.):

Democrats had supported that move — an infusion of $4.4 billion in mandatory funding — as a way of drawing broader backing for the compromise bill.

But it also includes several provisions that Democrats said went too far, such as allowing law enforcement officers to question people about their immigration status, cracking down harshly on people who overstay their visas, and imposing mandatory prison sentences on illegal border crossers.

For their part, Senate Democrats mulled their options on the GOP plan, which requires 60 votes to pass the 100-member Senate since it would be financed through additional debt. Democrats didn't immediately signal a willingness to kill the plan outright.

"On first glance, there's some stuff in this proposal we can support, but much of it also appears to be pretty objectionable," said Jim Manley, spokesman for Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

One option under consideration is a Democratic countermeasure that would blend border security funding with bipartisan provisions to allow more foreign agricultural workers into the United States and to permit some immigrants who have grown up in the U.S. to become citizens if they go to college or serve in the military.

A DREAM Act/AgJOBS/border security-funding compromise? A "grand bargain" in miniature?

UPDATE: It looks like the Graham amendment has been blocked for now.

UPDATE 7/26: It looks like the $3 billion funding is back.