The 67-27 vote allows the measure to move forward.
The Senate advanced the costliest plan ever to bolster security at the U.S.-Mexico border, drawing enough Republican support to indicate that a broad revision of immigration law will pass by week’s end.
The 67-27 vote allows the measure to move forward. It would double the size of the U.S. Border Patrol and require another 350 miles of fencing at the boundary with Mexico—at a price tag its authors say will reach $38 billion.
"Some people have described this as a border surge," said Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican who proposed the measure. "The fact is that we are investing resources in securing our border that have never been invested before."
The border-security plan would be attached to the immigration legislation, with both headed for final votes in the Democratic-led Senate later this week. The debate then will shift to the Republican-controlled House, where opposition to a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants is stronger.
U.S. immigration law hasn’t been significantly altered since 1986. A 2007 immigration rewrite died in the Senate and wasn’t considered in the House. The prospects for passage of a bipartisan bill are greater this time because some Republicans see the issue as a way to boost the party’s appeal with Hispanic voters.
Republicans are trying to reconnect with Hispanic voters after President Barack Obama won 71 percent of the votes cast by the fast-growing voter group in the 2012 election.
The immigration bill is on track to pass the Senate with a lopsided majority, with the border-security package attracting additional Republican votes, said Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, the chamber’s third-ranking Democratic leader.
"With this agreement, we believe we have the makings of a strong bipartisan final vote in favor of this immigration reform bill," Schumer said during floor debate.
The legislation includes a citizenship option for undocumented immigrants and alters the nation’s system of work visas for employees of technology, agriculture and other companies.
Still, prospects in the House are uncertain. The House Judiciary Committee, led by Virginia Republican Bob Goodlatte, is considering separate measures involving aspects of immigration policy, and Goodlatte has said he doesn’t favor the Senate’s comprehensive approach.
House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said last week he won’t bring an immigration proposal to a vote unless a majority of the chamber’s 234 Republicans support the bill.