Two Republican senators who will oversee their party's efforts on immigration called yesterday for strict law enforcement as part of any temporary-worker program, and criticized a competing group of senators for not having serious enforcement.
Two weeks ago, Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, introduced a broad overhaul of immigration that called for a path to citizenship for illegal aliens, a 400,000-person-per-year increase in immigration and for the federal government to produce a plan to secure the border.
It also called for Mexico to secure its own borders to try to prevent the flow of illegal aliens across the U.S.-Mexico border.
"I would characterize theirs as containing more studies rather than real money," said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, who along with Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, will put forward a competing immigration overhaul some time this summer.
The Kyl-Cornyn bill will propose hiring 10,000 Department of Homeland Security employees to do work-site investigations over the next five years, and another 5,000 to detect fraud in immigration-benefits adjudication.
It also spends $5 billion over five years, half for technology and half on infrastructure, to "achieve operational control of the borders of the United States."
But some of the bill's key provisions simply restate current law.
The senators said the 10,000 Border Patrol agents for which the bill will call repeat the same authorization from last year's intelligence-overhaul bill. And the bill calls for far fewer detention beds for illegal aliens awaiting deportation proceedings than current law already authorizes.
Lawmakers who back the McCain-Kennedy bill said the Kyl-Cornyn proposal shows growing momentum for comprehensive immigration legislation. But one advocacy group, the National Immigration Forum, criticized Mr. Cornyn and Mr. Kyl for their approach.
"Based on review of Sens. Cornyn and Kyl's outline, they correctly diagnose the need for smart and strong enforcement, but fail to offer a winning solution by relying largely on ineffective and discredited enforcement strategies," said Angela Kelley, deputy director of the forum.
"Serious immigration reform must be bipartisan to pass and comprehensive to work. Partisan outlines of partial proposals do not rise to the challenge of comprehensively fixing our immigration system," she said.
While senators called for enforcement efforts as part of an overall bill, their House colleagues said enforcement must come before any other bill.
"This month a bill to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants was introduced in the U.S. Senate," said Rep. Charlie Norwood, Georgia Republican. "I think we should send a very clear message to the other body not to waste their time or ours on any bill dealing with the status of illegal immigrants, until we first secure our borders."
Jerry Seper contributed to this article.