Saturday, August 7, 2010

Senate approves $600 million border security bill

It's only a drop in the bucket but it is a move in the right direction and looks like being passed into law quickly. I was a bit amused by this sentence: "Pelosi said last week that border security "is one of the central pillars of bipartisan comprehensive reform."" Sounds like the conservatives have won that point

U.S. Senators agreed to boost security along the U.S-Mexico border on Thursday by passing an emergency spending bill that appropriates $600 million to be paid for by higher visa fees for foreign companies.

In a voice vote, Senators agreed to provide funding for 1,200 new border patrol agents, 250 new customs and border protection officers, a pair of unmanned airplanes, two operating bases and radio communications equipment.

"This bipartisan effort shows we are serious about making the border more secure than ever," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, the primary sponsor of the bill and chairman Senate Judiciary Committee's immigration subcommittee.

"Now our attention must turn to comprehensive reform, which is the only way to fully address the problem of illegal immigration," he said.

The House passed a similar, $700 million bill last week and could look at the Senate's version in a special session convened by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, next week to vote on additional funding for states.

The plan will be paid for by higher fees on foreign companies applying for U.S. visa programs that bring foreign workers into the country, according to Sen. Clair McCkaskill, D-MO. "It's paid for in a way that makes sense. We're talking about foreign companies with more than half of their employees, skilled workers ... are on visas," she said. "What it's hopefully going to do is create some vacancies for Americans at some of these higher skilled jobs," she said.

Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, said the money was a "significant step" toward implementing a proposed security plan for the border. "Although, there is a great deal more to be done, I believe today Democrats finally put good policy over politics and agreed we must secure our border first," he said. "I anticipate many of these resources will be placed along the Arizona border,' he said.

Department of Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano said the funding will "add important, permanent resources" for boosting security along the Southwest border. "These assets are critical to bringing additional capabilities to crack down on transnational criminal organizations and reduce the illicit trafficking of people, drugs, currency and weapons," she said.

The bill funding will also pay for new radio communications equipment. Pelosi said last week that border security "is one of the central pillars of bipartisan comprehensive reform."

Analysts say that wide ranging legislation on immigration will not be taken up by Congress until after the November elections. Previous proposals for so-called "comprehensive immigration reform" have not met with support by Congress and President Barack Obama has said there is not enough support from Republican lawmakers.

Proposals for such legislation have included stronger border security, a pathway to legal status for the nation's 11 million undocumented immigrants, tougher employer accountability and additional visas for workers in industries facing shortages.


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