Why Democrats Made a Concession on Border Security

The amendment, sponsored by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), says that the federal government can't reimburse a state for an immigrant's detention if the immigrant was apprehended through "unlawful conduct," as defined by the Attorney General. That could make states think twice about pushing the legal envelope with immigration laws.

The meeting was relatively workmanlike except for one controversial foot-in-mouth moment from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a sponsor of the reform bill.

While debating an amendment, he gave his take on the difference between immigrants coming from Canada and Latin America:

"Canada is a place where people like to stay," he said. "The people coming across the southern border live in hell holes. They don't like it; they want to come here."

Graham later recanted.

"I wasn't slandering Mexico," he said. "I was just talking about all the places people want to leave for whatever reason."

Updated, 11:00 p.m. A previous version of this post incorrectly stated that if border security goals were not "met" in 10 years, it could block a path to citizenship for most undocumented immigrants. The border security plan would need to be "subtantially operational," according to the language of the bill, but the goals would not necessarily need to be "met."

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