The amendment, proposed by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, was struck down in a 57-43 vote, The Hill reported.
Had the amendment been approved, the Department of Homeland Security would have been required to strengthen border security before the government would be allowed to grant provisional immigration status to anyone.
"This vote proves this 'open and fair process' is a farce," Grassley said. "The majority is afraid of having a true vote on my amendment. ...This is not the right way to start off on a very important bill."
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is working with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, on other amendments that would deny federal benefits to immigrants receiving provisional legal status as part of a path to citizenship, The Hill said.
One amendment would bar cash welfare payments from going to non-citizens while the second would clarify requirements that immigrants seeking legal status must prove to the Treasury Department they have paid back taxes for time spent in the United States.