Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee told reporters yesterday that a small bipartisan group of senators had reached a deal on a way for the Senate immigration reform bill to control migrant flows across the US-Mexico border and, as such, ensure that the offer of a path to citizenship for many of the nation's undocumented would not be endangered.  The group's amendment, which would boost spending on border security far beyond the $6.5 billion now in the bill, could be the cornerstone of the kind of senatorial Republican support which the bill's authors believe is needed to secure its passage in the GOP-majority House of Representatives.  "I think we've overcome the issues that have separated the group in negotiations. I think we're together now," Corker said. 

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Asked about what the amendment would do, Senator John Hoeven (R-N.D.) told the LA Times, "More manpower, more fencing and more technology -- drones, helicopters.  The whole focus has been getting bipartisan support, getting people to a comfort level that we are, in fact, securing the border."

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The LA Times reports that the proposal would station even more Border Patrol officers along the US-Mexico border than the 3,500 additional officers provided for in the bill now.  It would also install more radar technology, including the Vadar system - radar operated from Predator surveillance drones which was initially developed to detect and track Taliban fighters planting roadside bombs in Afghanistan - and it would require that more double-layer fencing be constructed on the border.  These extra provisions could make the cost of the reform double.  But a Congressional Budget Office finding that the bill would decrease the federal deficit by $197 billion over 10 years, announced yesterday, was seen to give negotiators in the group breathing room.  The amendment will also specify that the Department of Homeland Security come up with a plan to ensure that most would-be border crossers are stopped en route.

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Republican members of the House have shown themselves largely hostile to any immigration bill which offers legal status to the undocumented.  But proponents of the bill are betting that if it passes the Senate with enough momentum - including support from Republican senators - conservatives in the House could be pressured into compromising on legislation which many senior GOP members see as make-or-break for the future of their party. 

The bill currently contains border security "triggers" stipulating that until the Department of Homeland Security develops and implements strategies for border security and border fencing, undocumented immigrants cannot be granted provisional legal status; for them to be eligible for permanent residency in 10 years (a green card), both strategies have to be operational, and an electronic exit system at air and sea ports of entry and an electronic employment verification system have to be up and running.  Republicans have pushed for legalization measures to be directly contingent upon whether Homeland Security puts 100 percent of the border under surveillance and apprehends 90 percent of those who try to cross it.  But Senator Corker told Reuters that these were "not a sticking point anymore", though he declined to elaborate.