360° Analysis

A Rumble at the Border


July 13, 2013 07:10 EDT

Despite the new security amendment, passing the immigration reform bill is anything but certain.

On June 24, the US Senate agreed to an important border security amendment to the proposed immigration reform bill, and ratified the legislation the following Thursday with a vote count of 68 to 32. The bill will now move on to the House of Representatives before it can get to President Barack Obama’s desk.

Senate Bill 744, or the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, aims to double the funding and manpower that will go to monitoring the US-Mexico border. All of this also would include a new 700-mile stretch of physical border fencing that will spike its budget even higher. Border security is a big issue for Republicans and their constituents, as they see the proposed immigration bill as tantamount to all out amnesty for individuals perceived as living in the United States “illegally.”  

The Vote

The vote to go ahead on a border security amendment to the proposed immigration bill is significant in two ways.

Firstly, the passage of the immigration bill into law will depend on a majority of Republicans in Congress voting yes. This seems like an unrealistic situation at the moment. Most House Republicans say they want to see the dividing wall along the US-Mexico border extended, and want increased surveillance along at the border via increased manpower and a state of the art biometrics system. Suggestions which opponents of the new security amendment describe as a concerted effort to fully militarize the border and further privatize the nation’s security.

Secondly, concerns of the border security amendment have grown exponentially as estimates of its potential effects become known. Migrant advocacy groups worry a fully militarized border will sharply increase deaths as the hazards of border crossing become nearly inescapable. More boots on the ground will surely bring more abuse of power, corruption, unaccountability, and ultimately death. Concerns of environmental damage have also been expressed at the proposed 700-mile fence as border towns begin to think about the construction, noise, pollution, and what all these encroachments of their cities might mean.

In addition to border security, the measure phases in a mandatory program for employers to verify the legal status of potential workers, and calls for a separate program to track the comings and goings of foreigners at the nation's seaports and airports.

This part of the measure will leave any incoming migrant with zero prospects of employment, further precipitating their agitated situations. Taking into consideration that the decade length of provisional status offered in the proposed immigration legislation requires paying all back taxes, hefty fees and fines, and no lapses of employment greater than 60 days during the ten years before any type of application can even begin to be processed, the anguish of United States’ undocumented communities is palpable.

Christmas Deadline

All of this may end up being a backstory and a moot point at year’s end. Obama has publicly stated that he wants to see an immigration reform bill on his desk before Christmas. House Speaker John Boehner came out recently with his own declaration; stating he will not send a bill to the floor without a clear majority of the 234 Republicans.

Therefore, passing the immigration bill into law is anything but certain. We will see what happens when the House begins debate on the bill sometime in July. What is certain, however, is that if this current version of immigration legislation becomes law, it will open up a whole can of proverbial worms for a region of the country which is already under immense duress.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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