Wicker Statement on Amendment Vote to Strengthen Border Security

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., issued the following statement regarding his procedural vote for the Corker-Hoeven border security amendment to the immigration reform bill, S. 744, known as the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act”:

“From the outset of this debate, I have argued that securing the border must be our top priority in stopping illegal immigration once for and all. The Senate had an opportunity today to strengthen the underlying immigration bill with tougher provisions for enforcement. This includes an additional 20,000 border patrol agents, finishing the more than 700 miles of reinforced fencing, and implementing a more stringent E-Verify system.

“Today’s vote is not the end of the debate on the immigration bill, but it does provide stronger enforcement than the provisions of the base bill. I am unlikely to vote in favor of final passage of this bill unless more significant improvements are made in the coming days. I have offered several amendments to crack down on sanctuary cities and toughen the requirements for illegal immigrants applying for legal status. I hope my amendments are considered by the full Senate.”

Highlights of Corker-Hoeven Amendment:

Before Registered Provisional Immigrants would be eligible for lawful permanent resident (green card) status, the following conditions must be met:

· The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Attorney General and other federal entities, must certify that the Comprehensive Southern Border Strategy is in place and operational with:

o High-tech equipment and tools operating to provide surveillance;
o Deployment of an additional 20,000 Border Patrol agents to the southern border (more than doubling the current number);
o Construction of at least 700 miles of border fencing;
o Full implementation of E-Verify, by which employers would have a means to check the legality of prospective hires; and
o Full implementation of the electronic visa entry/exit system at international airports and seaports in the U.S.

Wicker Amendments to S. 744:

· End ‘Sanctuary Cities’: The term refers to any state or jurisdiction that has a policy, practice, or law that prohibits state or local police from assisting federal authorities in enforcing immigration laws. Under the Wicker amendment, these jurisdictions would be denied State Criminal Alien Assistance Program funds and law enforcement grants from the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice.

The amendment would encourage information-sharing by law enforcement officials and stipulate that individuals who violate the immigration law are included in the National Crime Information Center Database. Finally, it would ensure states have access to federal technology that is helpful in identifying immigrants who are inadmissible or deportable.

· Double the Penalty Fees: This amendment would double the penalties – from $1,000 to $2,000 – that illegal immigrants must pay at various steps in the process. A $1,000 penalty amounts to far less than what is often paid to so-called “coyotes” who help smuggle people across the border.

· Require the DHS Secretary to Adjust All Fees and Penalties for Inflation: This amendment would require the Secretary of Homeland Security to adjust both the penalties and fees annually for inflation, just as many other federal programs do. Adjusting for inflation annually is a reasonable change – and would help ensure that the fees are actually effective in covering some of the bill’s implementation costs, as intended.

· Prohibit Applicants Who Have Filed Frivolous Applications for Asylum: By law, those who knowingly file a frivolous application (containing statements or responses that are deliberately fabricated) are permanently barred from receiving any benefits under the “Immigration and Nationality Act.” The Wicker amendment would strike the ability of illegal immigrants to apply for provisional legal status if they have previously filed a frivolous application for asylum.

· Expedite the Removal Proceedings of Illegal Immigrants with Serious Criminal Offenses: This amendment would require the Secretary of Homeland Security to initiate expedited removal proceedings against those who are deemed ineligible for provisional legal status because they belong to a gang; have committed an aggravated felony; or committed an offense against a child or a domestic violence offense.

· Ensure Those Found Ineligible Have Their Provisional Legal Status Revoked: This amendment would clarify that the Secretary of Homeland Security should revoke the provisional legal status of an applicant if he or she is found to be ineligible; used fraudulent documentation; or did not fulfill the continuous physical presence requirement in this bill.

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Ryan J. Taylor
Communications Director
U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.)