WASHINGTON — The Senate rejected an amendment to the immigration bill on Friday that would have required the completion of 700 miles of border fencing before illegal immigrants could be granted citizenship.
In a 53 to 39 vote, the Senate voted against the amendment proposed by South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune.
The amount of border security in the comprehensive immigration reform bill penned by the bipartisan Gang of Eight has been an issue for a number of Republicans on both the House and Senate side.
Republicans are working to craft proposals that would increase the amount of border security required to allow for a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
In a statement after the vote, Thune said building the fence would have been a “tangible demonstration that Congress and this administration are serious about border security.”
The amendment would have required that 350 miles of double layered fencing be built along the border before illegal immigrants could be granted Registered Provisional Immigrant status, which would make them legal, but not citizens.
A full 700 miles would need to be constructed before Registered Provisional Immigrants could apply for or be granted citizenship.
According to The Washington Times, the border only has 36 miles of the double layered fencing at the moment. 316 miles is single layered fencing, and 299 miles are vehicle barriers.
“Our immigration system is broken and must be fixed. Unfortunately, each time Congress has tried to fix our immigration system, promises to secure our border are never upheld,” Thune said in a statement.
“I am disappointed the Senate missed this important opportunity to communicate to the American people that we are serious about securing our border and enforcing the laws that we pass,” he added.
West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor were the only two Democrats to join 37 Republicans in voting for the amendment. Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski joined the four Republican members of the Gang of Eight — Sens. John McCain, Marco Rubio, Jeff Flake and Lindsey Graham — in voting against the amendment.
Rubio said he supported the construction of a fence, but had voted against the amendment because it was not sufficiently specific.
“I support Senator Thune’s efforts to require completion of double layered border fencing,” he said in a statement. “Properly deployed, these fences have proven highly effective in limiting illegal crossings. That is why the current bill requires $1.5 billion be spent specifically on a border fence plan. However, his amendment does not detail a specific border plan. Therefore, I opposed his amendment and instead continue to work with my Republican colleagues to arrive at a new measure that improves on the significant border security measures already in the bill.”