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GOP: Borders must be stronger, or immigration bill will die

| Tuesday, May 7, 2013, 6:24 p.m.
“If, in fact, the American people can’t trust that the border is controlled, you’re never going to be able to pass this bill,” Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said of pending immigration legislation.

WASHINGTON — Landmark immigration legislation is doomed to fail in Congress unless border security provisions are greatly strengthened, Republican senators bluntly warned on Tuesday.

“If, in fact, the American people can't trust that the border is controlled, you're never going to be able to pass this bill,” said Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

His admonishment, joined by those of other GOP lawmakers, occurred as Democratic and Republican senators filed a flurry of amendments before the first votes on Thursday in a separate committee on the far-reaching bill to deal with an estimated 11 million immigrants who are in the United States illegally and the millions more who might be expected to try to enter. Some of the amendments could destroy the legislation's prospects by upending the carefully crafted deal negotiated by four Republican and four Democratic senators, supporters say.

Border security was the major sticking point.

“If we're going to get immigration reform through, if you're going to get it through the House, we're going to have to do a whole lot more on what is the definition of a controlled border than what is in this bill,” Coburn said.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., voiced similar concerns at a hearing to examine border security provisions of the bill. Paul, who has voiced support for comprehensive immigration overhaul, said that the bill relies too much on setting goals and requiring studies about border security instead of insisting on actual accomplishments. Under the bill, “You have to have a plan to build a fence, but you don't have to build a fence,” he complained.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., an author of the legislation, defended the border security provisions.

Durbin said that border security is stronger than ever, but nonetheless, “we went the extra step in this bill and they're saying it's still not enough. You kind of reach a point where you have to question their commitment to immigration reform.”

The bill would allocate $5.5 billion for border measures aimed at achieving 100 percent surveillance and blocking 90 percent of illegal border crossers and would-be crossers in high-entrance areas.

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