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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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June 20th, 2013
07:21 PM ET

Run for the border as immigration debate heats up

The biggest rhetorical hurdle in passing an immigration reform bill is the lack of literal hurdles on the border – and the fear that people are flocking to cross the U.S. border with Mexico illegally because of the improved chance of becoming a legal resident.

And Border Patrol agents apparently have arrested some with that motivation

Asked at a Senate hearing on border security in April whether the number of attempted crossings into the U.S. had increased in the last three months, U.S. Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher said the number had gone up.

"This particular year, yes, sir, we have seen an increase in attempted entries between the ports of entries. We're actually up in terms of apprehensions, about 13%. The reasons and modus behind that are varied, some of which is hearing sequestrations, some of which is hearing immigration reform, and some of it is hearing, you know, they just want to come and be joined with their families," said Fisher.

The number of arrests of people illegally crossing the border were up last year too by approximately 9%– the first increase since fiscal year 2005.

Despite this uptick, apprehensions are still at a 40-year low and are down more than 50% than 2008, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

The department said apprehensions are a key indicator of the flow of illegal immigrants across the border.

Some are concerned that the number of those crossing illegally, including the ones not caught, is also rising.

Those supporting the new immigration reform effort say these new illegal immigrants will not benefit from any bill.

"Anyone who came after December 31, 2011, will not be eligible for this legalized status and eventual path to citizenship," Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, told CNN in April.

Lawmakers also insist the passage of the new immigration bill hinges on proving the borders are more secure before putting any illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship, as Senator Marco Rubio, R-Florida, told CNN's Dana Bash Thursday.

"No one who violates our immigration laws will become a legal permanent resident unless all five of these things, the agents, the tents, the technology, the E-Verify, and the entry-exit tracking system, unless all five happen no one whose violated our immigration laws can become a legal permanent resident," said Rubio.

An independent review of the bill by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said it would only reduce illegal border crossings by 25%. Now senators from both parties who are pushing the bill are adding an amendment to double the number of Border Patrol agents and complete 700 miles of fence along the U.S.-Mexican border.

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