WASHINGTON, D.C. — Just because Minnesota now has two Democratic senators doesn’t mean that they are always going to see eye-to-eye, especially — it would seem — when it comes to immigration reform.
In two votes today on the Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2010, Minnesota Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken ended up on opposite sides despite their shared caucus, with Franken allying himself with the Democratic leadership and Klobuchar largely bucking the party.
The first amendment, offered by Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and championed by the GOP, would make the E-Verify system mandatory for all federal contractors. The original Senate version of the bill would have reauthorized E-Verify for three years, but would not have made it mandatory. E-Verify is an Internet-based system that allows employers to electronically check the employment eligibility of their newly hired employees.
Klobuchar voted in favor of this amendment, which passed. Senate Republicans and a handful of more conservative Democrats joined her in supporting the mandatory use of E-Verify. Meanwhile, Franken and the Democratic leadership voted against the measure.
“I had supported E-Verify in the past and I think that it needs to be refined and actually made a little tougher,” said Klobuchar on Wednesday.
“I support some comprehensive immigration reform, but to really do it, people have to have faith that our government can handle this and that means, first of all, order at the border so that we can allow people in legally and not illegally. It means having a good employer verification process so that employers aren’t hiring people that shouldn’t be in our country. And that is the only way you are going to get to step three, which is comprehensive immigration reform.”
Franken and the Democratic leadership, however, voted against the measure.
Franken spokeswoman Jess McIntosh argued that since the bill already would have extended E-Verify for three years, the amendment “would just diminish the rigor of oversight for the program” by making it permanent.
The second amendment, offered by Jim DeMint, R-S.C., would require the completion of at least 700 miles of reinforced fencing along the southwest border of the United States by Dec. 31, 2010.
This Republican-supported measure also passed with the help of Klobuchar, conservative Democrats and some Democrats from southwest-border states like California and Arizona.
Franken again sided with the Democratic leadership in voting against the measure.
“On the border fence vote, none of the relevant effective law enforcement agencies were indicating this was something they needed or wanted,” said McIntosh.
But Klobuchar countered that there were ways to make the fence work and reiterated that strengthening the border was a necessary step toward comprehensive immigration reform.
“If people have worked in this country, if they pay their taxes and abide by the laws, basically they should be able to earn citizenship in this country,” Klobuchar said. “But I don’t believe we are going to be able to have the political will to get there until the government is able to show we have made a very good effort, and some changes here, to make it harder to come in illegally.”