Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas) criticized the Senate immigration bill’s approach to border security during a House Homeland Security Committee hearing Tuesday morning.
Cornyn argued that the Senate bill spends too much money and does not have a coherent plan for how to secure the border.
“The American people will simply not accept immigration reform unless it guarantees border security results,” Cornyn said. “Unfortunately, the Senate-passed immigration bill, S. 744, fails this test completely.”
The hearing contrasted the Senate bill with a bill that the committee passed in May that focuses solely on border security.
The Senate passed its bill with bipartisan support with the hope that a strong majority would put pressure on the House to take up its proposal. However, the House has not indicated that it will take up the bill. Many House members have said they are in favor of approaching immigration reform with several smaller bills rather than one comprehensive bill.
Cornyn proposed during the debate on the Senate bill an amendment similar to the House bill that would have required a 90 percent apprehension rate on the border and other border surveillance measures before a route to citizenship for illegal immigrants’ could be triggered.
The Senate narrowly defeated this amendment before passing another amendment that put 20,000 more patrol agents on the border as a prerequisite for illegal immigrants to move toward legalization.
“Without a coherent strategy or metrics to measure results, adding this many new Border Patrol agents could go down as one of the most massive wastes of money in the history of the federal government,” Cornyn said.
House Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee chairwoman Candice Miller (R., Mich.) echoed Cornyn’s concerns.
“Doubling the Border Patrol and tearing down hundreds of miles of fence just to rebuild it appears tough until you look deeper and ask the tough questions: Did the chief of the Border Patrol say that’s what they needed to get the job done, or did senators come up with those nice round numbers to get additional votes?” she said.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R., Texas), chairman of the full committee, bashed the Senate bill for having “no strategy” and “no requirements.”
“The Senate bill continues this misguided approach, continuing to throw money at different sections and sectors of the border,” he said.
The subcommittee ranking member Sheila Jackson-Lee (D., Texas) praised the House bill—which requires the government to stop 90 percent of illegal immigrants crossing the border and sets up metrics to measure the government’s progress—but said that more needs to be done.
“A comprehensive bill or package of bills will be necessary to address the full scope of challenges,” she said before praising the Senate for passing its bill.
Rep. Xavier Becerra (D., Calif.), who testified before the committee after Cornyn, also called for a comprehensive approach.
“Simply fixing one aspect of our immigration system ensures that we will fall short of making our country stronger economically and safer from external threats,” Becerra said.