Coats won't support current immigration bill, would if amended to increase security

Border, employer verification in need of change

INDIANAPOLIS - Sen. Dan Coats, R-Indiana, said he's prepared to vote for an immigration reform bill, but not until certain conditions are met.

This comes as a bipartisan group of senators struggle to put together a version that can muster 60 votes and pass it by the Fourth of July. 

Coats said he supports the efforts of  Senate Republicans to develop a compromise on border control that will satisfy Republican demands for tighter security without losing Democratic votes.

But he said the current bill's language doesn't meet his requirements.

The bill currently would spend billions on new border security equipment.

But Republicans said the language would only require a plan and not actual results.

"We need reform, because the current system is broken,” Coats said. “People are pouring across the border still. And so I am for real good reform. But the current bill before us doesn't achieve what I think we need to achieve.  Hopefully, we'll be able to amend that and approve it. If not, I can't vote for it."

Coats said three areas cry out for improvement.

He said border security is better, but not there yet.

Coats said the system to ensure that employers have checked workers' immigration status is not working well at all.

And he said there is no way to catch people who come here on legal temporary visas, then blend into the society and never leave.

Coats said the mistake made under President Reagan to promise border controls without delivering can't be repeated.

“We cannot convince the American people, you know, fool me once, okay, but fool me twice, no good.  This was exactly what was put in place in 1986. It didn't work. We can't repeat that mistake. So let's get this thing fixed, certify that it is, and then go forward," Coats said.

Compromise may be difficult to achieve. 

One Republican amendment would require 100 percent border surveillance before allowing anyone here illegally to start on the path to citizenship. 

But both sides said it is unlikely to pass.

One problem is that many Republicans distrust the Department of Homeland Security's intentions to tightly patrol the border.

Follow Norman Cox on Twitter: @normancox6

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