The Senate Judiciary Committee met today to begin marking up Sen. Specter’s immigration and border security bill. The Orange County Register provides an excellent summary of the session in this story, noting that:
At today’s first full day of deliberations on an immigration reform bill, the Senate Judiciary Committee decided it wants to help local governments train officers and seems to prefer a study of a border fence over a 2,000-mile barrier.
But it got little else done and committee Chairman Arlen Specter chairman is not happy. He is presiding over his panel’s deliberations â€“ called a markup â€“ on a 305-page immigration bill that does everything from improving enforcement to creating a new guest-worker program to allowing the between 11 million and 12 million illegal immigrants in the country now to work legally.
And there is apparently little support on the committee for a comprehensive US-Mexico border fence:
There was some back and forth, however, over whether to build a fence all along the southern border or instead study whether and where such a barrier makes sense.
“I do not support a fence for practical and financial reasons as well as because of the signal is sends to our neighbors in the north and south,” said Cornyn, R-Texas.
But Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., who supports the construction of an extensive border fence, said it would save money in the long run because fewer people would be caught at the border. And that means fewer people needing to be detained and sent back to their home country, he said.
But Sessions was the only lawmaker present arguing in favor of a border fence and the panel is expected to vote to proceed with the study in Specter’s bill and to suggest some limiting fencing in selected crossings in Arizona, an amendment proposed by Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.
The lack of support for a border fence show just how wide of a gap there is between attitudes toward immigration and border security in the House and the Senate right now. It’s looking increasingly unlikely that a comprehensive bill will be feasible this year; a smaller bill focused on consensus items such as immigration and workplace enforcement, technology at the border, and a larger Border Patrol now seems more probable. Perhaps the poor attendance at the markup (mentioned elsewhere in the story) is a sign that Senators expect Sen. Specter’s bill to languish and Sen. Frist to take up a smaller bill that includes these consensus items at the end of March.