This vote was on whether to allow to go forward an amendment by Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., that would have provided an additional $200 million to prosecute illegal immigrants. The amendment would fund this effort by using money originally allocated by the economic stimulus law that has so far yet to be spent. The amendment was offered to a bill that would provide supplemental appropriations in fiscal 2010, including extra money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as money for veterans, areas affected by natural disasters, and funding for some social policy initiatives, such as for teachers and firefighters.
When Kyl offered his amendment, Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., attempted to defeat the amendment with a parliamentary maneuver, saying the amendment violated the Senate’s budgetary rules. Kyl then made a motion to waive the rules in this case, which is what this vote was on.
Kyl said his amendment would help extend a program known as Operation Streamline from Yuma to Tucson.
“This could substantially reduce illegal immigration, because about half of all of illegal immigration goes through the Tucson sector. Operation Streamline is simple. It involves the Department of Justice accepting those who cross the border illegally into the court system and putting them in jail for about 2 weeks, and sometimes 30 days if there is an incident of repeated crossing or attempted crossing. What we have found is that there is a great deterrent effect. If people who are apprehended know they are going to jail for a couple weeks, they tend not to cross in that area anymore,” Kyl said.
Schumer criticized Operation Streamline, saying it “requires taxpayers to foot the bill at the cost of more than $120 per day, per inmate, to house border crossers and give them three free meals a day, free health care, medicines, and surgeries for all manner of illnesses, et cetera.”
“Couldn’t we better spend this $200 million and pass a comprehensive immigration reform program which is so much needed? By the way, it is my view that while we have to tighten up the border, people are coming for jobs. The only way we will stop the flow of illegal immigration into this country is to tell those who hire them they no longer can. The only way to do that is our Secure Social Security Card that Senator Graham and I have put forward so that papers can’t be forged and illegal immigrants can’t be hired. Comprehensive reform does that; these measures don’t.”
By a vote of 54-44, the motion to waive the rules was rejected. Though more voted yes than no, this particular vote required 60 in order to be considered approved. Every Republican present voted to waive the rules. Of Democrats present, 13 voted to waive the rules and 43 voted against (including most of the most progressive members). The end result is that the motion to waive the rules failed, the parliamentary maneuver to defeat the amendment succeeded, and the bill went forward without language that would have added an additional $200 million to prosecute illegal immigrants, paid for by using unspent stimulus funding.