Tennessee Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker voted to block the controversial immigration overhaul bill Thursday night.
Both said that, before passing new legislation, the U.S. first needs to secure its borders and to insist that all immigrants who are illegally in the country return home and apply to enter through legal channels.
The legislation orders increased border security but also provides ways for some immigrants who are in the country illegally to stay temporarily or to earn citizenship by leaving the country and paying a fine, among other steps.
Because Alexander has ex pressed openness to the controversial legislation, his office has been inundated with calls from conservative Tennesseans who oppose the bill.
Alexander said in a written statement Thursday that the bill "still needs a lot of work."
"The Senate needs to pass a bill that secures our border before it does anything else, and we should keep working on it until we can get it right," Alexander said.
Alexander proposed three changes to the legislation:
• Requiring the federal government to get a sign-off from border governors that the border is secure before doing anything else.
• Making sure all illegal immigrants return home and re-enter the country through legal channels.
• Ensuring that all legal immigrants learn English and American history.
In a written commentary, Corker said he could not back the bill "in its current form."