Senators working on a bipartisan immigration bill toured the Arizona border Wednesday in an effort to reassure worried hawks that security will be a top priority in any legislation they produce.
“What I learned today is we have adequate manpower, but not adequate technology,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told reporters after meeting with Border Patrol agents.Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) stressed the hardware side of the equation as well, calling for “constant surveillance over the entire length of the border” via improved equipment. Illustrating his point, he tweeted shortly before the press conference that he, Schumer, and Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Michael Bennett (D-CO), had just watched a woman climb over an 18-foot border fence before being apprehended.
Responding to a reporter’s question, McCain said that the border security issue was more urgent because of Congress’ failure to reach a deal replacing sequester cuts.
“There’s no doubt that our border is less secure because of the sequester and we’ll be doing everything we can to restore that funding,” he said.
The Senate group has yet to release a draft of their bill (Schumer put their status at “90 percent” complete), but an early framework includes a requirement that certain border metrics be met before undocumented immigrants can apply for green cards and citizenship. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano expressed concern this week that the border “trigger” could end up being too vague and stranding millions of immigrants in legal limbo. Republican lawmakers, led by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rand Paul (R-KY), have said the trigger concept is absolutely necessary to draw GOP support.
McCain told reporters that he did not see the Senate group’s border measures as a long term barrier to citizenship.
“I believe that if we do the right thing … that over a relatively short period of time with the proper use of technology, with the proper coordination between different agencies that we will be able to see that we have a degree of border security that will allow people to move forward with a path to citizenship,” he said.