Photo of one of the U.S./Mexico border fences.
A bill has passed to increase border security on the U.S./Mexico boundaries. CC by Phil Gingrey/Wikimedia Commons

The Senate passed a border security bill on Thursday. The Senate, on its August vacation, had only two Democrats present to handle the vote. The border security bill allocates $600 million to hire more agents and buy more equipment to police the U.S./Mexico border. The federal government has been pressured by border states struggling with drug trafficking and illegal immigration to do something about border security.

Bill creates 1,500 border security jobs

The border security bill was passed in a special Senate session Thursday. Unanimous consent, a parliamentary procedure that doesn’t require the entire Senate to be present, was used to pass the bill. The Associated Press reports that 1,000 new Border Patrol agents, 250 more Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and 250 more Customs and Border Protection officers are among the border security jobs funded by the bill. Updated communications equipment and more surveillance drones are also funded. The Justice Department will receive about one-third of the money to help the FBI, DEA and ATF come down on human traffickers and drug dealers.

Immigration advocates call bill a stunt

For politicians trying to impress voters with their border security creed in the aftermath of Arizona’s immigration law, some say the border security bill is election year theater. The Los Angeles Times reports that boosted fees on companies that hire foreign workers legally through U.S. visa programs will pay for the $600 million bill. The package will do little to address the complex issue of illegal immigration, say immigration advocates who denounce it as an election year stunt. Politicians say a broader debate on immigration reform that includes a route to citizenship for about 11 million illegal immigrants will be made possible when the border is secured.

Results from a rare special session

The Senate convened during its summer vacation for only the second time since the August break was institutionalized in 1970, the Senate Historical Office said. The New York Times reports that the only senators present were both Democrats: Charles E. Schumer of New York and Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland. The border security bill had already been passed by the House and Senate. However, an overlooked rule in the Senate’s arcane procedures forced a re-vote. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was the first and only other time the Senate has convened during summer recess.

Sources:

Associated Press: http://google.com/hostednews/ap

Los Angeles Times: http://latimes.com

New York Times: http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com

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