Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) announced this afternoon that she voted against the final immigration reform legislation, S.744, which passed the Senate by a vote of 68-32. Senator Fischer released the following statement:

“I am grateful to the thousands of Nebraskans who made their voices heard through phone calls, letters, and e-mails to me and my offices throughout the past several weeks. Like the majority of Nebraskans, I recognize the current immigration system is broken. Despite my efforts to amend the legislation crafted by a small group of senators, I don’t believe the final legislation adopted by the Senate is the right answer, and I could not support it.

“I had a number of concerns with the final bill. I was especially disappointed in the border security provisions, which I highlighted in detail on the Senate floor. The bill ended up being weaker than previous plans offered in 2006 and 2007 – and weaker than the border security amendment I filed. Without a fully secure border, the United States will repeat the mistakes of the past and there will be no lasting solution.”

Specifically, Senator Fischer is concerned that:

  • The legislation fails to include to a biometric check system at all points of entry or exit
    • Not only is this weaker than previous proposals in 2006 and 2007, it rolls back a congressional mandate dating back nearly 20 years (found in six different statutes) requiring implementation of a biometric exit system at all land, air, and sea ports. 
    • Forty percent of illegal immigrants are the result of visa overstays; a biometric system would help to track these individuals unlawfully here in the United States.
    •  The bipartisan 9/11 Commission noted in 2004 that, “The Department of Homeland Security […] should complete, as quickly as possible, a biometric entry-exit system.” 
    • A National Security Preparedness Group report added: “As important as it is to know when foreign nationals arrive, it is also important to know when they leave. Full deployment of the biometric exit component of US-VISIT should be a high priority. Such a capability would have assisted law enforcement and intelligence officials in August and September 2001 in conducting a search for two of the 9/11 hijackers that were in the U.S. on expired visas.”
    •  Since 9/11, at least 36 individuals who overstayed their visas have been convicted of terrorism-related charges.
  • Determination of operational control is left to the discretion of the Secretary of Homeland Security.
  • There is no congressional approval required to determine if the border is fully secure.
  • It fails to require full operational control of the southern border before initiating the legalization process.
  • It allocates $46.3 billion in federal funding (with taxpayers directly responsible for $38 billion) without first requiring a strategic plan for the implementation of a border security plan.

It contains a loophole that could allow illegal immigrants who have attained Registered Provisional Immigrant status to be eligible for means-tested taxpayer benefits, such as food stamps and Medicaid. The Congressional Budget Office has indicated this will likely cost hardworking taxpayers nearly $260 billion over the next decade.