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S. 744 Day 1: Highlights of Immigration Debate and Amendments

Below are highlights from today’s opening Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on S. 744, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.” Overall, the Committee considered 32 amendments to Title I concerning border security. The Committee adopted 21 amendments, of which 20 were adopted by a bipartisan vote. The debate and voting can be viewed on C-Span. The Committee will meet again at 10 o’clock next Tuesday.

After first approving by 14-4 the Sponsors’ amended version of the entire bill, the Committee voted on a package of amendments:

Leahy 1 (prohibits border crossing fees at land ports of entry)
Grassley 2 (provides that DHS must submit several border related and other reports to various Senate and House committees)
Grassley 5 (Requires yearly audits of the Trust Fund)
Cornyn 6 (Includes the “Human Trafficking Reporting Act of 2013”)
Sessions 36 (Expands DHS Ombudsman to provide assistance to those who have been victims of crimes committed by aliens or border violence)
Flake 1 (Includes private land representatives on the Department of Homeland Security Border Oversight Task Force)
Flake 2 (Requires the GAO to prepare an annual assessment of the status and progress of the Southern Border Security Strategy)
Feinstein 6 (Requires DHS to establish standards to ensure humane conditions for children in the CBP custody)
Feinstein 7 (Requires allocations to law enforcement agencies for Operation Stonegarden be allocated through a competitive grant process.
Feinstein 8 (Requires CBP “to acquire and deploy watercraft to provide support for border-related maritime anti-crime activities”)
Hirono 24 (Creates a new Ombudsman office in DHS)

The balance of the amendments that were adopted, not adopted and withdrawn are as follows:


1. Feinstein # 9 The amendment would expand state and local costs related to immigration-related criminal prosecution that could be reimbursed by the Federal Government.
2. Blumenthal #10. The amendment would allow DOJ to deny reimbursements to state and local governments for immigration-related prosecution/detention costs if the underlying apprehension was from unlawful conduct by a law enforcement officer.
3. Feinstein #10. The amendment would establish a grant to “improve the transportation infrastructure at existing and new international border crossings.”
4. Hirono (HI-D)# 23. The amendment would ensure that the humanitarian needs of children of those who are being repatriated/referred to prosecution are being considered, as well as the physical safety of the individual who is apprehended “as soon as practicable.”
5. Feinstein #1. The amendment would extend SCAAP funding (reimbursement to localities for immigration enforcement actions and prosecutions).
6. Leahy (Vt-D) #4. The amendment would provide DHS flexibility in how the funding in the bill is used to implement the border security strategies.
7. Feinstein # 2. The amendment will provide for additional permanent district court judgeships in the southwest border states. Sen. Grassley offered a 2nd degree amendment to provide whistleblower protection to judicial branch employees. Sen. Feinstein agreed to modification.

Not Adopted

1. Sessions #37. The amendment would strike out the provisions requiring DHS to issue policies governing the use of force by DHS personnel.
2. Cruz #1. The amendment will amend the border security sections of the bill to triple border patrol agents, quadruple technology and infrastructure, complete the fence, complete biometric entry-exit system, 100% operational control, and tougher legalization triggers.
3. Sessions # 9. The amendment would establish as a trigger the completion of 700 miles of double-layer fencing as passed by the Secure Fence Act of 2006.
4. Cornyn #1. The amendment would modify all the border security provisions in the bill, including tougher triggers for adjustment of status for RPIs to LPR status.
5. Sessions #11. The amendment modifies border security strategy and the border triggers, changes the border security goal to 100% operational control.

1. Coons #2. The amendment would require DHS to certify that it won’t remove someone through a southern border point in a dangerous location unless justified by compelling government interest. Sen. Coons agrees to work with Sen. Flake.
2. Sessions #38 3. Feinstein #11. Offers up a substitute to her amendment. Held.
4. Cornyn #2. The amendment would authorize DHS to hire 5,000 new full-time CBP officers and 350 support staff to staff ports of entry. It also allows for private-public partnerships to help with funding.

A list of the specific amendments and their votes, voice votes, and withdrawals can be found here. Also, Chairman Leahy (Vt-D) put out a press release about the first day, emphasizing transparency of the proceedings. Senator Grassley (Iowa-R), the Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee, stated that stated because sufficient border resources or metrics were not approved,”it’s legalization first, enforcement later.”