Sen. Jeff Sessions (R.-Ala.) should be crowned Hero of the Week, and possibly Hero of the Year, for his role in the immigration debate.
Sessions’ amendment to provide for 870 miles of physical border barriers along the U.S.-Mexican border (370 miles of triple-element fencing and 500 miles of vehicle barriers) broke the legislative logjam between the Senate and the House, and may well have paved the way for meaningful border security and immigration reform.
Until that bold stroke, assisted by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s (R.-Tenn.) support, it looked like the Senate would produce a bill so far to the left of the House immigration bill passed last December that no House-Senate conference committee could craft a mid-point compromise between the two bills that would enjoy the support of both houses.
In one move, Sessions put the Senate bill back on the track to approval, only two days after the President’s speech that was strong on the rhetoric of border security, but timid on the details.
Much work remains to be done to continue to improve other portions of the Senate immigration bill—most notably the guest-worker plan and legalization of existing illegal immigrants—but that work can proceed in seriousness now that the final bill looks likely to pass meet the House’s insistence for strong border security provisions as a pre-condition to any immigration liberalization or guest worker program.
“Border security first” has always been the sensible middle point between “border security only” and amnesty, but for several weeks, it looked like the Senate didn’t accept that reality.
Sessions’ supporting cast of heroes also deserves recognition: Chief of Staff Rick Dearborn and his Judiciary Committee staff, headed by Cindy Hayden. Just as good fences make good neighbors, so good staffers make good senators.