If an immigration reform bill in the Senate becomes law, it will devote a huge amount of spending to securing the border -- "almost overkill," according to one of the Republicans that came up with the border plan.
That commitment to locking down the border has been pivotal to securing votes for the immigration bill in the Senate. It's pretty much assured that the legislation will pass there when senators vote on it later this week as planned.
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The border strategy, drafted by Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.), would need to be in place before newly legalized immigrants could become legal permanent residents.
Here are a few of the big things that would be required under the plan:
1. Double the number of Border Patrol agents
We'd go from roughly 21,000 agents to 40,000 agents over the course of 10 years. The increase would cost $30 billion. All this while apprehensions -- people caught at the border -- have been at 40-year lows.
2. 700 miles of fencing along the southern border
There are already 651 miles of fencing along the southern border, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
But only 352 miles of it are "pedestrian fencing," which is specifically designed to keep people from crossing illegally. The immigration bill would mandate 700 miles of that type of physical barrier (where possible), and allow for a double-layer of fencing in some areas.
At least $7.5 billion will go toward border fencing.
3. A system to verify whether you're authorized to work
All businesses would need to use E-Verify, an electronic system that checks a person's eligibility to work.
4. Exit tracking at all land and sea ports
There would need to be a system in place at all ports that uses passport and biographical data to track people who are leaving the country.
5. Lots of gear for Border Patrol
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said the border plan "reads like a Christmas wish list for Halliburton."
He's right: the new spending provisions should make Border Patrol and the contractors who supply their equipment very happy.
You have new towers to spot crossers; handheld thermal imaging and night vision goggles; infrared sensors; boats; drones; Blackhawk helicopters; and more VADER radar systems, which were created to track Taliban bombers in Afghanistan.
What does this mean for the path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants?
Under the Senate immigration bill, many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country will be able to apply for a "provisional" immigration status. That can happen as soon as Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano notifies Congress that she's started implementing the border security and fencing strategy. The new border security amendment won't change that.
That status will likely last 10 years, but after that period, they should be able to apply to become legal permanent residents. From there you could eventually apply for citizenship.
Immigrants in provisional status could be stuck there if these goals aren't met, but drafters of the immigration reform bill don't think that will be a problem.