Sessions: Border surge amendment doesn’t require surge

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
Font Size:

The near-final version of the immigration bill doesn’t require President Barack Obama to implement any of the much-touted “border surge” that bridged a partisan divide last week, according to a review of the bill by staff working for Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions.

The 1,187-page bill will face a critical “cloture vote” on Monday at 5.30 p.m., three days after the “border surge” amendment was added to the draft bill. If it passed, as expected, the Senate will hold a yes-or-no vote by Thursday.

The addition of the amendment prompted several GOP Senators to announce their support for the controversial bill.

But “there is no border surge … [and] not a single new Border Patrol agent has to be hired before the amnesty is put into place,”said Session’s analysis of the amended bill, which aides in Sessions’ office provided to The Daily Caller.

“Based our experience with the Secure Fence Act [of 2006], which required 700 miles of double-layer border fencing that never got built [because of Democratic opposition], one thing is clear: the border surge will never happen,” said the analysis, which did not identify any improvements to the amended bill.

“It’s 1986 all over again: amnesty without enforcement,” the analysis summarized.

Sessions is the main opponent of the controversial, far-reaching rewrite of the nation’s immigration laws, which allow the arrival of roughly 46 million immigrants, and establish a population of roughly 2.5 million university-level guest workers, over the next two decades.

The bill will also provide many new rights to illegal immigrants, provide a great deal of work to immigration lawyers, and allow U.S. universities to offer green-cards to tuition-paying foreign graduates.

The bill will reduce average wages, education levels and employment for at least a decade, and will increase the share of national income won by property-owners at the expense of wage and salary earners for at least 20 years, according to a June 16 report by the Congressional Budget Office.

The bill’s provisions are very unpopular with voters, according to a poll funded by a group opposed to the measure. Other polls show majority public support for a conditional legalization of the 11 million illegal immigrants.

But it is not clear if the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives will oppose the bill.

The bill is strongly supported by progressives and allies of business groups, along with donors and software billionaires — including Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook.

Senate Democrats and several Republicans lauded the “border surge” Thursday and Friday, and said it allowed a bipartisan deal that has the support of more than 60 Senators, including at least 10 of the 45 GOP Senators.

“Literally, it will almost militarize the border as a surge,” said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who initiated effort to draft the bill last November.

“Boots on the ground, drones in the air,” claimed Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, who has led the effort to draft and pass the far-reaching bill.

The so-called surge was developed with two Republicans, North Dakota’s Sen. John Hoeven, and Tennessee’s Sen. Bob Corker.

The two Senators gave up the GOP demand for a so-called trigger that would have delayed legal benefits for illegals until the southern border was 90 percent, in exchange for a multi-billion dollar buildup of border agents and surveillance gar between 2017 and 2021.

The demand for 90 percent efficacy was when President Barack Obama told Schumer that it was unacceptable.

Since Friday, the promise of a surge has been derided by immigration reform groups, such as NumbersUSA and the Federation for American Immigration Reform, both of which want to reduce the annual inflow of 1 million immigrants.

The “amendment – like the larger bill – is a fraud, sold by the authors with falsehoods so these Senators might give their corporate donors the flood of labor they crave,” said a statement by NumbersUSA.

Instead the “surge” amendment authorizes — but does not guarantee — the construction of 700 miles of fending and the hiring of 20,000 new border agents, starting in 2017, after Obama leaves office.

According to the analysis by Sessions’ staff, “the Secretary of Homeland Security may begin granting amnesty (registered provisional immigrant status) to illegal immigrants once she merely submits a border security strategy to Congress, which will be no later than six months after enactment.”

The proposed border surge can be halted by a White House political appointee, said the analysis.

“The Secretary has discretion to: (1) reallocate the personnel, infrastructure and technology required by the plan, and (2) substitute the technology required in the plan with other technology she determines is equally effective, regardless of “the minimums” required by the plan,” said the analysis.

This authority is found on page 35 of the amendment.

“LIMITATION ON REQUIREMENTS.—Notwithstanding paragraph (1), nothing in this subsection shall require the Secretary to install fencing, or infrastructure that directly results from the installation of such fencing, in a particular location along the Southern border, if the Secretary determines that the use or placement of such resources is not the most appropriate means to achieve and maintain effective control over the Southern border at such location,” says the amendment text.

The requirement for the fencing is part of “paragraph (1),” which says “Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall establish a strategy, to be known as the ‘‘Southern Border Fencing Strategy’’, to identify where 700 miles of fencing (including double-layer fencing), infrastructure, and technology, including at ports of entry, should be deployed along the Southern border.”

Basically, the fencing has to be built,”unless the Secretary doesn’t want to [so] it’s a talking point, not a strategy,” the Sessions analysis says.

In April, Secretary Janet Napolitano told Senators that no additional fences were needed.

“Well, right now, the border patrol, already pursuant to existing law — an appropriations law — has done an extensive study of where fencing makes sense along the southwest border. They determined that there are 653 miles where it actually makes sense… and 652 miles of that have been completed,” she said.

The “bill still says that ‘nothing in this provision shall be interpreted as requiring the Secretary to construct fencing.’ … Under their proposal, the fence will never be completed,” said Session’s analysis.

Follow Neil on Twitter