WASHINGTON — Arkansas’ two U.S. senators split as the Senate signaled its overwhelming support Monday for sweeping immigration reform after a bipartisan deal was struck to further strengthen border security.
Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., a co-sponsor of the "border surge" amendment, joined with more than two-thirds of his colleagues in voting to move ahead with the revamped immigration bill. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., was among a smaller group of conservative senators who opposed the measure.
The vote was 67-27.
The "border surge" amendment, which was unveiled on Friday, would double the number of agents along the southwestern border and double the fencing there to 700 miles. More funds would go to high-tech surveillance, an electronic visa entry and exit system would be fully implemented, and employers would be required to use the E-Verify system when hiring.
"This is the strongest border security bill Congress has ever considered, and this amendment makes it even stronger," Pryor said.
Boozman said it is misleading to claim Monday’s vote was on strengthening border security. Rather, he said, the bill would offer "immediate amnesty with a ‘promise’ of future security enhancements that will likely never happen.
"This is another instance of Washington’s rush to do something, instead of doing the right thing," he said.
The lopsided victory gave proponents of immigration reform additional hope that an immigration reform bill could clear the Senate by Friday with enough support to move the House to act.