Sen. Mark Kirk poised to vote yes on immigration bill with tougher border security deal

SHARE Sen. Mark Kirk poised to vote yes on immigration bill with tougher border security deal
SHARE Sen. Mark Kirk poised to vote yes on immigration bill with tougher border security deal


WASHINGTON–Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) told the Sun-Times on Thursday with a pending deal to toughen border security in the works, he is prepared to vote for the immigration reform bill now being debated in the Senate.

“The decision is should the border security amendment pass, I will be able to support the final legislation because then I will be able to assure the people of Illinois that the border is well covered with 21,000 border agents added, one every thousand feet, I think we got the border covered,” Kirk said.

Kirk said he was working with Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.) –the main negotiators on the tougher border security provisions with the “Gang of Eight,” which includes Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

The deal is seen as the key to winning more GOP votes–putting the overall legislation on a path to capture the 60 votes it needs for Senate passage.

The Corker/Hoeven deal came together “late yesterday,” Kirk said.

On June 11, Kirk was one of only 15 Republicans to vote twice against the Senate opening floor debate on immigration reform, a hard-line position that seemed puzzling since Illinois has an enormous immigrant population and is not on the border.

Illinois pro-immigration groups–with GOP and Democrats united on this issue– rallied against Kirk siding in those votes with the senators who were seen as hostile to immigration reform.

Protestors gathered outside of Kirk’s office in Chicago; organizations produced polls showing how popular immigration reform is in Illinois and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) started to run radio ads in Illinois on Wednesday criticizing Kirk for blocking immigration reform from even advancing to the Senate floor.

The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights blasted Kirk for siding with Republicans on the “far-right,” a stinging attack on a senator who has cultivated a moderate image.

Before his Thursday announcement, Kirk was facing even more pressure over immigration.

Organizing for America, the group founded by the leaders of the Obama for America campaign, was prepared to launch a six-figure paid media campaign to urge Kirk to back the Senate immigration overhaul measure, according to a source familiar with the OFA media strategy.

That campaign–now on hold because of Kirk’s Thursday announcement–was to have included English and Spanish television and targeted El platform ads in Chicago.

OFA was a part of the coalition staging pro-immigration rallies in Chicago and was already planning dozens of smaller events to target Kirk, such has handing out flyers at farmers markers, street festivals; holding vigils and running phone banks.

Kirk was asked about the impact of those protests.

“I have to listen to anybody back home quite a bit. Obviously we are an immigrant state, mainly a Polish immigrant city which I’ve been working a lot on, trying to learn Polish. Obviously, cause who we are, with 525,000 undocumented aliens in Illinois, this has a major impact. I expect by bringing everybody out of the shadows they will be able to establish much bigger small businesses. This could be as much of an economic boom to the country as CBO (Congressional Budget Office) as projected, with three percent added to the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the country.”

Another reason for Kirk’s support is the inclusion in Corker/Hoeven of his provisions to expedite giving citizenship to combat veterans by granting then a waiver from some naturalization requirements.

On June 12, Kirk issued a statement setting a high bar for his backing for immigration reform, calling for the Senate to adopt a controversial border security proposal by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) that had little support–but it paved the way for the Corker-Hoeven compromise that satisfied Kirk’s concerns.

Cornyn’s border security amendment is expected to be tabled or voted down sometime on Thursday.

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