U.S. Sen Mark Kirk (R-IL) was one of 15 senators who voted against discussion of the chamber's bipartisan immigration reform bill. The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act Of 2013, SB 744, was drafted by the Senate's Gang of Eight, which includes U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin. The bill was filed back in April.
The legislation creates a pathway to citizenship for the nation's more than 11 million undocumented immigrants who meet certain mandates and pay fines, after a five- or 10-year wait. The pathway to citizenship is also dependent on the nation meeting certain border security benchmarks. But some Republicans are calling for even more stringent border security provisions. Kirk, for example, says he would like to see the more aggressive border security provisions outlined in an amendment by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) included in the bill before he could sign on to the legislation.
"I’ve always said border security first, and I actually mean that procedurally,” Kirk told Politico following the vote. “If [the] Cornyn [amendment] can pass, then that opens the door for me.”
Cornyn's amendment, among other things, calls for four "triggers" to be met before permanent residency is granted to legalized immigrants. Here are the provisions as detailed on Cornyn's website:
Requires DHS Secretary and GAO Comptroller General to jointly certify that these triggers are met before Registered Provisional Immigrants (RPI) can adjust to Lawful Permanent Resident (“green card”) status:
1. 100% Situational Awareness - monitoring capability at every segment of Southern border
2. Full Operational Control - defined as at least 90% apprehension rate along Southern border
3. Biometric Exit System - fully operational and in use at all air and sea ports of entry to which U.S. Customs and Border Protection is currently deployed; retains current law for land ports
4. Nationwide E-Verify System - must be implemented (identical to S.744)
Earlier today, former Republican Illinois governor Jim Edgar and business leaders in the state released a letter encouraging Kirk to support bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform. Nonetheless, Kirk tried to filibuster the measure this afternoon by voting to squash debate on the bill because, in it's current state, the bill fails to meet his standards in terms of border security.
The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights released a statement voicing their "outrage" in response to Kirk's vote:
The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) is puzzled and outraged by Senator Mark Kirk's vote. 'His vote demonstrates how out of touch he is with his constituents, and may cause permanent damage between the Illinois Republican Party and Latino and immigrant voters. What was he thinking?' said Lawrence Benito, ICIRR’s CEO. The vote is an indication that Senator Kirk is not interested in having a Senate debate about immigration reform. Instead, he chose to play politics with the "optics" on the border and side with the extremists in his party. By siding with the most extreme in his party, Senator Kirk shows how out of touch he is with Illinois business, women, faith, labor and community leaders.
Senator Kirk continues to obsess about the border despite the fact that, as the Chicago Tribune editorial pointed out yesterday, 'the bill already contains up to $6.5 billion more to lock down the border, even though illegal crossing are at their lowest levels in decades.' Yesterday, the Chicago Tribune urged the Senator to step up and lead on immigration. ICIRR also calls on Senator Kirk to demonstrate that he isn’t a puppet for the extreme factions of his party, but a leader who can think on his own accord.
Jeremy Funk, communications director for Americans United for Change, also released a statement with his take on Kirk's vote:
Now we know why Senator Kirk has been so slippery on his position on immigration reform when Illinois’ business leaders and huge immigrant community have urged him to be on the right side of history. As it turns out, Kirk doesn’t even want to have a debate about it, let alone lift a finger to address the 11.5 [million] undocumented immigrants in the U.S., including Dreamers who’ve grown up here and want to serve the nation in the military or go to college to be even more productive members of society. If Senator Kirk had his way, all talk about a reasonable path of citizenship for them would be shut down today.
Surely Senator Kirk has seen the recent polling showing the significant political consequences the Republican Party face from Latino voters if they derail reform. But Senator Kirk apparently had a reason to stand with the intolerant, xenophobic Tea Party extremists in Congress, and it’s doubtful his constituents will find it a compelling one. We hope he ultimately finds himself on the right path as this legislation moves forward. There’s no excuse for punting this issue down the road again when it’s so clearly in the best interest of Illinois’ economy to pass this sensible, bipartisan bill now.
Immigration reform advocates have a number of actions planned for this week that specifically target Kirk in hopes of getting the lawmaker to support the immigration reform bill. Check back with Progress Illinois for coverage of those events.
Image: AP/Daily Herald