This vote was on an amendment by Robert Menendez, D-N.J., that would modify the budget resolution to allow for an increase in border security and immigration enforcement, including increased civil and criminal penalties for employers who hire undocumented immigrants. It also would allow for the deployment of National Guard troops to help enforce the borders.
The amendment was offered to the budget resolution that serves as the blueprint for Congress’ budget priorities in fiscal 2009. The budget resolution sets overall spending targets for the Appropriations committees and outlines other budget rules.
Menendez said his amendment would offer a better solution to the old problem of immigration, primarily to “actually go after the magnet that brings people to this country; that is, jobs and those who employ them illegally.” The amendment was offered as an alternative to an amendment offered by Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., that is broader in scope and focuses more on cracking down on immigrants and less on cracking down on employers who hire them.
Sessions complained that Menendez’s amendment was a poor substitute for his. “This amendment … fails to include any provision for State and local law enforcement, fails to include any provision for border fencing, fails to include any provision to advance specifically the effective operations streamline policy that is being done now in four border areas, that needs to be done in 20, and that has resulted in a 60-percent reduction in illegal entry in those four areas. The Menendez amendment does not particularly cover that area. I would ask that it not be passed and that my amendment coming up next would be the one more appropriately effective to carry out the will of this Congress,” Sessions said.
By a vote of 53-45, the Senate adopted the amendment. (Later, Sessions’ amendment was also adopted. The two are not mutually exclusive, but rather offer different focuses to dealing with immigration issues.) All but two Democrats present voted for the amendment (Byron Dorgan of North Dakota and Jim Webb of Virginia). All but five Republicans present voted against the amendment. The end result is that the bill went forward with language that would allow for increased border security and immigration enforcement, including an increase in civil and criminal penalties for employers who hire undocumented immigrants.