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Coats wants border security measured

Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., demands immigration documents of a different type: He wants to see papers on whether U.S. border security is improving.

In remarks to the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce, Coats indicated Monday he cannot support the immigration bill before the Senate unless it requires the Department of Homeland Security to measure the effectiveness of border protection, patrols and surveillance.

“Let’s put something in place that we can document and certify to the American people,” he told an audience of about 140 people.

Coats was in a hurry to catch a flight back to Washington so he could take part in a procedural vote later in the day on the Democratic-controlled Senate’s latest immigration bill. He said he would oppose the effort to shut down debate and shut out border security amendments that he and other Republicans have offered.

“With adjustments, with amendments, I can look hard at supporting a bill that does the right things. In my opinion, those have not been made yet,” he said.

His own amendment would require Homeland Security to certify security improvements at porous points along the U.S.-Mexico border before immigration applications are approved.

“I’ve been down there, three days on the border. Trust me, it’s going to take more than a fence, because they tunnel under, they fly over, they go around,” said Coats, the top-ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee on Homeland Security.

Max Montesino, president of the board of the Hispanic Leadership Coalition of Northeast Indiana, wrote a letter to Coats and Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., urging them to support the recently amended, bipartisan “Gang of Eight” immigration bill the Senate is considering this week.

Montesino wrote that the legislation “secures our borders and brings out of the shadow a population that makes up an important component of our human capital.”

Coats said he supports an overhauled immigration system as a means to supply American businesses with both skilled and unskilled workers, including in Indiana livestock processing.

Low-skilled immigrants “are people that are willing to do this kind of work that is important to the Indiana economy.”

For more on this story, see Tuesday’s print edition of The Journal Gazette or visit after 3 a.m. Tuesday.