Illegal border crossings leap ahead of immigration bill

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“I saw a border that I think appears to me and to a lot of other people is more secure than it’s ever been — or been in a long time,” he said.

Mr. Carper, though, said there is room to do better. He asked for a show of hands from the four administration witnesses about whether the government could do “a whole lot more” to boost border security, and all of them raised their hands.

Mr. Carper, who recently traveled to the border with Mr. McCain, said he was shocked to learn that drug cartels have taken control of mountaintops on U.S. territory and use them to direct smuggling traffic through the border.

“It blows my mind,” Mr. Carper said. “If they’re sitting on a mountaintop on Afghanistan or Iraq, I think we’d take them out.”

The eight senators working to strike a final immigration deal say they are nearing completion. Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, on Wednesday scheduled a final major immigration hearing for next week.

Mr. Leahy said he hopes to push a bill through his committee soon after that.

Republicans argue that the Senate is moving too quickly. They have called for multiple hearings and for a long amendment process.

Opponents of legalization say that the more time voters have to study details of the bill, the less they will like it.

Mr. Leahy, though, said these issues have been simmering for years, his committee already has held several hearings this year, and there is no need for a drawn-out process.

“Our hearings have informed the Senate and the public of the various and pressing needs to reform the nation’s broken immigration system,” he said. “I look forward to continuing that discussion next week as we head toward marking up legislation with deliberation and openness.”

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