Saturday, July 15, 2006

Looking tough in the Senate

On Thursday, the Senate approved an appropriations bill that will add 1,000 new border patrol agents and 1,700 new immigration detention center beds. The $32.8-billion funding bill was for the Department of Homeland Security's operations in the new fiscal year. The bill passed 100 senators to 0.

Still 'on hold' is the comprehensive immigration reform bill passed nearly two months ago. Neither the House or the Senate have moved forward on setting up a conference committee to reconcile it with the House bill (HR 4437). Instead both houses of Congress have been holding public hearings around the country.

On Thursday, an amendment to the appropriations bill that was authored by Senator Kyl and passed by the Senate will add 1,700 bed spaces, bringing the total number for 2007 to the 27,500 requested by Homeland Security (with the Senate and House bills the ultimate total could be more than 100,000 beds).

This Senate bill will have to be reconciled with a similar bill passed by the House passed in June. It will be interesting to see how quickly the conference committee for this bill will be put together. Congressmen and women desperately need to look like they are doing SOMETHING on immigration to show constituents that they are worthy of re-election in November.

Also on Thursday, the Senate passed a border tunnel measure sponsored by California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Sen. Barbara Boxer. As the Los Angeles Times reports, it imposes a 20-year prison sentence for building or financing a cross-border underground passageway and would jail for 10 years landowners who displayed a reckless disregard for the construction or use of a tunnel on their land.

So even if comprehensive immigration reform bills die in this Congress, Senators and Representatives are still taking steps to beef up enforcement. Yet truly comprehensive reform that looks at the entire immigration system seems to have died a long time ago (or was never born).