Immigration Reform

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The U.S. Senate passes an immigration reform bill. Mike Slaven, who’s written about the issue for Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute, will talk about what’s in the bill.

Ted Simons: Good evening. I'm Ted Simons. U.S. Senate pass add sweeping immigration reform bill that among other things increases border security and provides a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. Joining me to talk about today's move by the Senate and what comes next as the bill heads for the house is Mike Slaven from the Morrison institute. Good to have you.

Mike Slaven: Thanks, Ted.

Ted Simons: What did the U.S. Senate pass today?

Mike Slaven: It's the first big movement on immigration reform legislation in the past six years. It include threes pillars talked about as the important parts of immigration reform which are border security, legal status for the people who don't have legal status right now and new legal channelings for workers to come into the U.S.

Ted Simons: We had a - vote. Republicans supported. Surprised?

Mike Slaven: They have been trying to get as many Republicans as possible to support it. 68 votes nowadays in the Senate is an accomplishment especially on a divisive issue. You with barely get people to name a post office for that amount of votes. It's a big accomplishment an has substantial bipartisan support. We'll feed into the debate in the house.

Ted Simons: First of all this broad bipartisan support, how did that happen?

Mike Slaven: Well, they added a lot of border security provisions to it later on in the process. John Hoeven, Bob Corker introduced an amendment that bolstered the border security provisions. Looks like there are always going to be votes, something between that for the bill. But those border security add-ons brought in a lot of people. Among them the big thing talk about is adding 20,000 border patrol agents to the southwestern border.

Ted Simons: Basically doubling the number.

Mike Slaven: The border patrol has been doubled once in the past seven or eight years so we're talking four times as many as early 2000's.

Ted Simons: It sounds as though you have unmanned surveillance drones and finishing a mile fence. All put in place over the same amount of time to get a permanent resident card?

Mike Slaven: A lot of the argument about the bill is so what are we going to require on the border before we allow the legalization of the undocumented population to take place. People have very different views. What they seem to have agreed on is that DHS needs to create a plan for how to have effective control over awful the sectors of the southwestern border and they need to have put this plan into substantial operation, needs to be operative ten years after. Then people who oversee the temporary status can then move into a Green card status. Basically the DHS secretary and other officials have to confirm it's operative. Initially a lot of the details of that plan had been left up to the discretion of DHS. Some Republicans don't trust the federal government to implement it so they got specific. This technology at minimum needs to be there. These agents need to be there. There need to be 38,000 agents on the southwestern border. Once that's certified it's an operational program they can move on ten years after the fact to moving people who would have a provisional status into having permanent status.

Ted Simons: Is that professional into permanent here illegally which is a catch in the house.

Mike Slaven: One of them.

Ted Simons: They say people say this is dead on arrival.

Mike Slaven: John Boehner's attitude is he will do what the house does. They are going to start from scratch. They are not going to take the Senate bill and put it in front of house. John Boehner has to deal with a caucus. A lot of them are very conservative. Some are not going to like the bill. He said he won't move a bill to the floor without a majority of his caucus. They are going to come up with something that's palatable to a majority of house Republicans. As to whether they can, that's another issue. Boehner has not said they are not going to deal with the issue but whether they can succeed ironing out the differences, giving it to the president, that's another matter.

Ted Simons: The bipartisanship in the Senate, is there momentum that sweeps things along?

Mike Slaven: Some people have said there is. Boehner and other leaders seem to say they are just going to do their own thing but you have 68 Senators voting for this. These are obvious problems for the country that are for the going away. You have to resolve them somehow. You have a lot of Republicans thinking they have to pass something if they want to start appealing to Hispanic voters which they have identified as a big problem for them as to why they lost the presidential race. You have those things coming together. As to whether it really matters there's 68 versus 65 or 71 votes in the Senate it's not clear but there's a substantial number of Republicans voting for it in the Senate.

Ted Simons: Last question, will we see some kinds of comprehensive immigration reform get out of Congress and on to the president's desk?

Mike Slaven: That's the question. I think that the chances of it happening now are probably the best in the past five or six years but the fact that the Senate has moved on it is a huge step. Not willing to say for certain, but if things were ever aligned to make it happen it will be right now.

Ted Simons: Mike Slaven, thank you so much.

Mike Slaven: Thank you.

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