Lieberman Regrets Loss of “Historic Opportunity” for Bipartisan Immigration Refrom

Senator Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., Thursday criticized Congressional leadership for undermining an “historic opportunity” to enact comprehensive immigration reform this year and said he would oppose efforts to close off debate on an ineffective border security bill if leaders barred amendments to it.

Lieberman called the Secure Fence Act, which would add billions of dollars to extend sections of fence across the southern border with Mexico, one part of a “punitive and ineffective” House package – a far cry from the bipartisan reform the Senate passed in May. Lieberman co-sponsored an amendment by Senator Ken Salazar, D-Colo., to attach the Senate-passed comprehensive reform legislation to the narrower bill.

“The Senate is now considering abandoning a truly comprehensive and bipartisan solution to a festering national problem and replacing it with an incomplete, ineffective response to our broken immigration system,” Lieberman said in a statement. “The cost of these fences is conservatively estimated at $2.2 billion, but could easily double. And for this price America will be no more secure, its borders no more protected, and illegal immigration still out of control. The money spent on this bill could be used in much more effective ways to bolster our borders and strengthen our security.”

The bipartisan legislation approved by the Senate 62-36 on May 25, but thwarted by House Republicans, would have called for extensive improvements to border security and immigration enforcement including more Border Patrol and immigration agents, more detention beds, new technologies, and new legal authorities. But, as a counterweight to the enforcement provisions, it would also have addressed future immigration by creating a guest worker program leading to citizenship for those who qualified.

“Now, instead of doing our Constitutional duty and hammering out our differences, Congressional leadership has declared that reform is dead for this year and instead says the best we can do is build fences in the desert and create a mirage of security. This is a tragedy,” the Senator said.

Lieberman said if Senate Republican leaders insisted on blocking amendments to the Secure Fence Act, he would vote against cloture – a parliamentary term that brings floor debate to an end, moving the bill toward a final vote.

The Senator’s full statement is below.