Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake might have won some additional support from fellow Republicans for the immigration reform bill, but in the process they lost immigrant-advocate groups that say they can't stand behind the "border surge" amendment approved Monday.
A coalition of local organizations gathered at El Tiradito shrine in downtown Tucson to oppose the Corker-Hoeven amendment to the Senate immigration bill that would double the number of Border Patrol agents, add fencing along the border and deploy surveillance technology before allowing people to adjust to permanent legal status.
About two dozen members of local immigrant-advocate organizations stood by the shrine with signs that read, "No to CIR (comprehensive immigration reform) because it means more deaths," and "Border communities are not for sale."
Sarah Launius, with No More Deaths, called the amendment a "devastating blow."
They argue the border enforcement surge will harm the environment, increase the number of border-crosser deaths and hinder the civil liberties of border residents.
"This type of closed-door negotiations is a disrespectful move to all people who live within the borderlands," she said. "We are here today to ask all of those involved to not forget border communities."
The amendment was introduced last week by Republican Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and John Hoeven of North Dakota.
"Is it more than I would have recommended? Honestly, yes," McCain, told Fox News on Friday. "But we've got to give people confidence."
McCain and Flake are among the bipartisan group of eight senators that helped craft the bill.
This "surge" in border security won't come without significant costs, McCain said last week, "but those costs will not be borne by taxpayers, but instead by the fees and fines that immigrants and visa applicants pay under the modernized legal-immigration system this legislation creates."
The amendment appropriates $46.3 billion for expenses related to the security of the southern border and initial administrative costs, according to the Congressional Budget Office - out of which $30 billion is to be used to hire at least 19,200 more Border Patrol agents.
The amendment will help ease Arizona's disproportionate burden of the federal government's failure to secure the southern border, Flake said in a news release.
Maryada Vallet, also with the No More Deaths, said the group, understands negotiation and compromise are difficult but necessary for any legislation, "but this compromise has gone too far. This bill is not genuine comprehensive immigration reform; it's a homeland security bill."
The measures included in the amendment will affect generations to come, said Juanita Molina with the Border Action Network. "It's a grotesque display of institutions pursuing funds; the border wall hasn't been proven effective in keeping anyone out."
Dan Millis of the Sierra Club Borderlands said it will continue to fight for a path to citizenship for the 11 million "living in the shadows."
On StarNet: Find extensive coverage of immigration issues at azstarnet.com/border
WHAT THE BILL SAYS
People living in the country without status cannot apply to become permanent residents until at least 10 years have passed and the following have been implemented:
• The completion of at least 700 miles of secure pedestrian fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border.
• The number of Border Patrol agents is doubled.
• E-Verify must be completely implemented and mandatory for all U.S. businesses.
• An entry-exit system at all international air- and seaports must be completely implemented.
• All nine sectors of the Southwest border are provided with state-of-the-art technology and resources.
Source: Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
WHAT IT MEANS FOR ARIZONA
For the Tucson and Yuma Border Patrol sectors:
• 50 integrated fixed towers.
• 73 fixed camera systems, which include Remote Video Surveillance Systems.
• 28 mobile surveillance systems, which include mobile video-surveillance systems, agent-portable surveillance systems, and mobile surveillance capability systems.
• 685 unattended ground sensors, including seismic, imaging and infrared.
• 22 hand-held equipment devices, including hand-held thermal-imaging systems and night-vision goggles.
Many of the required air assets will be deployed nationwide outside the Tucson Sector, including:
• 4 unmanned-aircraft systems.
• 17 UH-1N helicopters.
• 8 C-206H aircraft upgrades.
• 8 AS-350 light enforcement helicopters.
• 15 Black Hawk helicopters; 5 new and 10 upgraded.
• 30 marine vessels.
• 160 unmanned-aircraft-systems, crew, marine agent, and other personnel.
• 6 VADER systems.
Contact reporter Perla Trevizo at email@example.com or at 573-4213. On Twitter: @Perla_Trevizo