The Senate yesterday easily approved an immigration bill that allows 10 million illegal aliens to become citizens, doubles the flow of legal immigration each year and will cost U.S. taxpayers an estimated $54 billion over the next 10 years.
The leaders of both parties hailed the 62-36 passage as a historic success.
Majority Leader Bill Frist said the vote represented the “very best” of the Senate.
“This is a success for the American people,” the Tennessee Republican said. “It is a success for people who hope to participate someday in that American dream.”
Four Democrats — Sens. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, Byron L. Dorgan of North Dakota, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan — joined 32 of the chamber’s 55 Republicans, including several members of the GOP leadership, to vote against the bill. Three of the four Democrats who opposed the bill face voters in November.
Opponents said that the Senate is ignoring clear public will and that the bill would have disastrous consequences for decades to come.
“We will never solve the problem of illegal immigration by rewarding those who break our laws,” said Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican. “We must stop illegal immigration by securing the border and creating a temporary-worker program that does not reward illegal behavior with a clear path to citizenship and voting rights.”
In the moments before the vote, Mr. Frist and about a dozen senators, from both parties, tearfully congratulated one another for all their hard work in producing the legislation. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat and the leading proponent of the bill, called it “the most far-reaching immigration reform in our history.”
After the vote, more than a dozen giddy lawmakers from both sides of the aisle gathered before television cameras to again commend one another.
“I am so proud of the Senate,” Minority Leader Harry Reid said as those around him smiled broadly. “This is the way we should legislate — on a bipartisan basis.”
As he spoke, a television screen behind him showed a live picture of the Senate floor, where fellow Democrats were at that moment trying to mount a filibuster against President Bush’s latest judicial nominee.
In the end, Democrats failed and a final vote was set for today on the nomination of White House lawyer Brett M. Kavanaugh, named to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. After speaking to reporters, Mr. Reid returned to the Senate floor and cast his vote in favor of the filibuster.
Those senators who voted against the immigration bill said it should have left out the “amnesty” provisions and instead focus solely on securing the border and enforcing the immigration laws that have been on the books for decades.
Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, the No. 3 Republican in the Senate, said the bill “puts the cart before the horse” because it gives citizenship rights to illegals, grants full-blown amnesty to employers and opens the borders to millions of new immigrants each year.
“The horse here, that I’ve been hearing from my constituents, is we need a border-security bill first,” said Mr. Santorum, who spends much of his time campaigning for re-election this fall. “And we need a program that makes sure that our country’s borders are secure and that they are not a threat either to our national security or economic security.”
The bill also includes approval for 370 miles of new fencing along the border, 500 miles of vehicle barriers and authorization of 3,000 new Border Patrol agents this year.
But conservatives in Congress — like many voters — are skeptical that the federal government will make good on promises to secure the border and enforce the laws. They suspect that immigration reform is headed for a repeat of the 1986 reforms that granted amnesty to 3 million aliens and promised to seal the border. Ultimately, the laws were never enforced and 3 million illegals were replaced with some 12 million new illegals.
“The amnesty provisions and the fact that the enforcement provisions will not kick in immediately mean to me that this will not solve the illegal immigration problem,” Sen. David Vitter, Louisiana Republican, said today. “This will, in fact, make the illegal immigration problem much bigger.”
Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, said yesterday he has been amazed by the Senate’s inability to do what voters clearly want.
“There seems to me to be a sense of surreality here, where people in the Senate just are not listening to what the American people are telling us,” he said. “We’ve tried, through the course of the amendments that have been offered that people standing here have offered, to highlight some of the problems that we have identified and which I believe are responsive to the concerns that we’ve heard from our constituents.”
Chief among them was an amendment by Sen. Johnny Isakson, Georgia Republican, that would have delayed implementation of the amnesty and guest-worker provisions until after the secretary of homeland security had certified that the border had been secured. The Senate killed that suggestion.
An amendment by Sen. John Ensign, Nevada Republican, would have barred illegal aliens from collecting Social Security benefits for past illegal work. The Senate rejected that proposal, even if the aliens had forged Social Security documents to get the employment.
An amendment by Mr. Cornyn and Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona would have required that the 200,000 new workers ushered into the country each year under the guest-worker program be allowed to stay for only a set period of time rather than permanently. The Senate rejected that proposal as well.
Immediately before the final vote yesterday, conservatives suffered what they viewed as one final insult. Buried in a 125-page last-minute amendment was a requirement that local, state and federal officials in the U.S. consult with their Mexican counterparts before they can start building the fence.
The 62-36 roll call by which the Senate yesterday passed a broad immigration-reform bill. Voting “yes” were 38 Democrats, 23 Republicans and one independent. Voting “no” were 32 Republicans and four Democrats.
Here are major points of the bill:
Amnesty: 10 million illegals can apply for citizenship.
Border security: Adds 370 miles of triple-wire fencing and 500 miles of vehicle barriers; adds 3,000 Border Patrol agents this year
Employers: No penalties for businesses that hired illegals
VOTING FOR THE BILL
Akaka (D); Baucus (D); Bayh (D); Bennett (R); Biden (D); Bingaman (D); Boxer (D); Brownback (R); Cantwell (D); Carper (D); Chafee (R); Clinton (D); Coleman (R); Collins (R); Conrad (D); Craig (R); Dayton (D); DeWine (R); Dodd (D); Domenici (R); Durbin (D); Feingold (D); Feinstein (D); Frist (R); Graham (R); Gregg (R); Hagel (R); Harkin (D); Inouye (D); Jeffords (I); Johnson (D); Kennedy (D); Kerry (D); Kohl (D); Landrieu (D); Lautenberg (D); Leahy (D); Levin (D); Lieberman (D); Lincoln (D); Lugar (R); Martinez (R); McCain (R); McConnell (R); Menendez (D); Mikulski (D); Murkowski (R); Murray (D); Nelson (D, Fla.); Obama (D); Pryor (D); Reed (D); Reid (D); Sarbanes (D); Schumer (D); Smith (R); Snowe (R); Specter (R); Stevens (R); Voinovich (R); Warner (R); Wyden (D)
VOTING AGAINST THE BILL
Alexander (R); Allard (R); Allen (R); Bond (R); Bunning (R); Burns (R); Burr (R); Byrd (D); Chambliss (R); Coburn (R); Cochran (R); Cornyn (R); Crapo (R); DeMint (R); Dole (R); Dorgan (D); Ensign (R); Enzi (R); Grassley (R); Hatch (R); Hutchison (R); Inhofe (R); Isakson (R); Kyl (R); Lott (R); Nelson (D, Neb.); Roberts (R); Santorum (R); Sessions (R); Shelby (R); Stabenow (D); Sununu (R); Talent (R); Thomas (R); Thune (R); Vitter (R)
Rockefeller (D); Salazar (D)
Source: Associated Press