Senate Democrats seek action on new border bill

In what has become a political ping-pong game, Senate Democrats Thursday rolled out a revised emergency border security spending bill that would be offset by raising fees on foreign companies that abuse the work-visa system used to hire high-skilled employees inside the United States.

With only hours left before the Senate is expected to wrap up work to begin a recess that will last more than a month, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and key aides were working behind the scenes to try to round up Republican support for the bill.

Democrats apparently were preparing a bid to pass the bill by unanimous consent later Thursday, a move certain to put Republicans in a politically difficult position.

The bill, introduced by Schumer and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., would provide $600 million in emergency funds to beef up security along the nation's borders with Mexico, including hiring more than 1,000 border security and immigration enforcement officers, increasing unmanned drone surveillance operations and deploying forward operating bases.

Senate Democrats previously tried to advance other emergency funding bills, such as one approved by the House last month that provides $701 million in border security spending. But Republicans opposed the efforts, arguing that the funding was not fully offset and would add to the nation's debt.

Indeed, Arizona GOP Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl introduced their own bill that would provide $701 million for border security and be fully offset by using unspent economic stimulus money and $100 million from the so-called virtual fence program.

Democrats have balked at using Recovery Act funds. In an apparent effort to counter Republicans, the bill introduced by Senate Democrats Thursday would be paid for by raising fees on foreign companies that hire more than 50 percent of their U.S. workforce through the H-1B high-skilled visa work program or the L visa program.

"They really use the system in a way it was never intended," Schumer said of those companies. Firms would face a fee increase of about $2,000 for each visa application on foreign workers who constitute more than 50 percent of their workforce, a Democratic aide said.

The aide said the proposal was worked out with business groups and would not affect companies like Microsoft that depend on foreign high-skilled workers.

Schumer said the bill "will be a test" to determine which senators want to secure the border. "If you want to get something done, this is the measure to pass," he said.

Republican reaction was not immediately available. McCain said he had not seen the bill and had not been approached by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., recently to discuss a compromise on border security legislation.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.