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Immigration reform takes giant leap forward with Senate vote (+video)

Senators think they have to pass immigration reform overwhelmingly to persuade the House to play ball. They paved the way for that to happen by passing an important amendment Monday.

By Staff writer / June 24, 2013

Sen. Bob Corker (R) of Tennessee speaks with reporters at the Capitol in Washington Monday. A measure he crafted with Sen. John Hoeven (R) of North Dakota would amend the comprehensive immigration reform bill to double the size of the US Border Patrol and complete 700 miles of fencing on the border with Mexico.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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Washington

The Senate took a giant leap toward passing an immigration reform bill on Monday by approving a bipartisan amendment promising a border security “surge.”

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The 67-to-27 vote opens the door for a dozen or more Senate Republicans to help assure the bill’s overwhelming final passage before week’s end. Fifteen Republicans – one third of the party conference – voted in favor of the measure.

The compromise amendment broke the Senate’s stalemate on immigration – finding long-sought middle way between Republican requirements of stiffer border security and Democratic demands that the path to citizenship for those in the country illegally not be delayed indefinitely. It brought a number of Republicans into the immigration reform fold and firmed up support among some conservative-leaning Democrats.

“The bill has been improved dramatically tonight by this vote, there’s no question” says Sen. Bob Corker (R) of Tennessee, who crafted the amendment with Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota and the main bill's bipartisan "Gang of Eight" authors.

In addition to addressing border security, the amendment was important because it also incorporated amendments from Sens. Susan Collins (R) of Maine and Bernie Sanders (I) of Vermont that should swing more support to the final bill. And that process isn't finished. The discussions among Senator Corker, Senator Hoeven, and the Gang of Eight also laid the groundwork for amendments from other senators – such as Sen. Rob Portman (R) of Ohio – that could broaden the appeal of the bill further.

“Hopefully there will be other improvements made with other amendments, and my sense is we’re going to pass an immigration bill out of the United States Senate that is no doubt historic and I think is something very, very important for this nation,” Corker said.

The amendment's key provisions include:

  • More than 19,000 new border patrol agents by 2019, nearly doubling the size of the border patrol, and separately add some 3,500 more customs agents by 2017.
  • The construction of 700 miles of fencing along the US-Mexico border, up from 350 miles in the original legislation.
  • Specific border security materiel for each section of the border, from the number of video surveillance systems near Tucson to the number of ground sensors buried near San Diego, for example. Among the new assets will be four border surveillance drones and a clutch of Blackhawk helicopters for borderwide surveillance and enforcement.
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