Despite signaling tentative support for the bipartisan immigration reform bill, Republican Senator Rand Paul recently said on CNN that he will vote against the bill since it no longer includes his amendment which would have granted Congress the power to determine border security with Mexico.
The bill is supported by a majority of Democrats and some Republicans, and includes a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants who meet certain requirements. If passed, it could potentially create what Republicans are calling "amnesty" for up to 11 million illegal immigrants residing in the United States. Paul introduced an amendment that would have required Congress to vote on whether the border was secure, but it failed to gain approval earlier this week. The bill's Senate prospects — already bleak in the House — would be substantially weakened without Paul's support.
Still, Paul said he was certain that without his amendment he would not support the bill. "Without some congressional authority and without border security first, I can't support the final bill," he told CNN.
Like some other Republicans, Paul argued that the immigration reform bill does not put enough emphasis on border security. As a result, he believes the bill could actually worsen illegal immigration.
"To have a secure border, you have to have a functioning visa work program," Paul said. "This bill puts new caps and allows less workers in to pick crops, that's where the illegal immigration is coming from. This bill will actually make that problem worse."
Despite Paul's opposition, not all Republicans oppose the bill. Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee argued that fiscal conservatives should support immigration reform because it could send billions to the Treasury.
"To those people who tout themselves as fiscal conservatives — and I'll put my credentials up against anybody — to be able to pass a bill that spends $46 billion on border security over a ten-year period, but know that you are going to have a return of $197 billion without raising anybody's taxes that will reduce our deficit, ought to also entice people to this bill," Corker said.
Paul's withdrawal of support is dissapointing. It is yet more confirmation that because of a severe deficit of political courage our representatives will continue to procrastinate on immigration reform. Like our national debt, social security and tax reform, the proverbial can will be kicked down the road because the political risks of picking the battered thing up and actually examining it are too large.
Although the questions surrounding immigration reform are not easy to answer, one thing is certain: without action, the problem will only get worse.