Senate Passes Immigration Legislation, Nebraska Senators Vote 'N - KHGI-TV/KWNB-TV/KHGI-CD-Grand Island, Kearney, Hastings

Senate Passes Immigration Legislation, Nebraska Senators Vote 'No'

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The Senate has passed new immigration legislation with a vote of 68-32, far more than the majority needed to send the measure to the House.

However, both senators representing Nebraska voted against the legislation; with Sens. Mike Johanns and Deb Fischer citing poor border security provisions.

Fischer said, "I had a number of concerns with the final bill. I was especially disappointed in the border security provisions, which I highlighted in detail on the Senate floor. The bill ended up being weaker than previous plans offered in 2006 and 2007 – and weaker than the border security amendment I filed. Without a fully secure border, the United States will repeat the mistakes of the past and there will be no lasting solution."

Johanns announced days earlier that he would not be voting in favor of the legislation. He said Monday, "Unfortunately, this amendment's promise of secure borders is not airtight. Additionally, several organizations representing our border agents and related personnel say this bill weakens national security and prevents them from doing their jobs."

Below is a list of concerns given by Fischer following the vote:

  • The legislation fails to include to a biometric check system at all points of entry or exit
    • Not only is this weaker than previous proposals in 2006 and 2007, it rolls back a congressional mandate dating back nearly 20 years (found in six different statutes) requiring implementation of a biometric exit system at all land, air, and sea ports. 
    • Forty percent of illegal immigrants are the result of visa overstays; a biometric system would help to track these individuals unlawfully here in the United States.
    • The bipartisan 9/11 Commission noted in 2004 that, "The Department of Homeland Security […] should complete, as quickly as possible, a biometric entry-exit system." 
    • A National Security Preparedness Group report added: "As important as it is to know when foreign nationals arrive, it is also important to know when they leave. Full deployment of the biometric exit component of US-VISIT should be a high priority. Such a capability would have assisted law enforcement and intelligence officials in August and September 2001 in conducting a search for two of the 9/11 hijackers that were in the U.S. on expired visas."
    •  Since 9/11, at least 36 individuals who overstayed their visas have been convicted of terrorism-related charges.
  • Determination of operational control is left to the discretion of the Secretary of Homeland Security.
  • There is no congressional approval required to determine if the border is fully secure.
  • It fails to require full operational control of the southern border before initiating the legalization process.
  • It allocates $46.3 billion in federal funding (with taxpayers directly responsible for $38 billion) without first requiring a strategic plan for the implementation of a border security plan.

* Items in italics are courtesy Sen. Fischer's office.

It contains a loophole that could allow illegal immigrants who have attained Registered Provisional Immigrant status to be eligible for means-tested taxpayer benefits, such as food stamps and Medicaid. The Congressional Budget Office has indicated this will likely cost hardworking taxpayers nearly $260 billion over the next decade.

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