Tags: The | Border | Fence: | Far | Lip | Service

The Border Fence: So Far, Lip Service

Wednesday, 27 June 2007 12:00 AM

Critics of the newly revived Immigration Reform bill are looking hard at whether the promised secured border is an even trade-off for the controversial path to legalization for the 12 million already unlawfully in the country.

Last year, Congress passed into law the Secure Fence Act -- legislation requiring hundreds miles of fencing to be built along the more porous parts of the U.S.-Mexico border.

To date, the Department of Homeland Security has built just 15 miles of this fence, despite a legislative mandate by the U.S. Congress requiring the fence to be built, notes Republican Congressman Tim Walberg, representing Michigan's Seventh Congressional District.

"With Americans united in support of border security, there is no reason this fence is not built," Walberg argues.

On Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace asked Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., about the reform bill and she pointed to the fence as a major attraction of the legislation:

"Let me point something out that's a little different this time. There will be mandatory spending, $4.4 billion up front, to do the following before anything else happens -- that's about 600 miles to 700 miles of border fence and vehicle obstructions, UAVs, employer verification, no more catch-and-release. There has to be detention of people coming across the border. So there will be border enforcement, 3,500 additional border patrols, before any other part of the bill goes into place. People don't understand that."

In fact, according to a recent analysis in the San Antonio Express-News, the Senate bill offers little that is new and, in some cases, less in the way of security and enforcement than is

"The Secure Fence Act of 2006 requires the Department of Homeland Security to add 18,000 Border Patrol agents by the end of 2008. The Senate legislation adds a mere 2,000 new agents to this total. The 2006 act requires the construction of 700 miles of border fence. The Senate bill requires the construction of only 370 miles of fence and 300 miles of vehicle barriers."

Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer lamented recently: "Despite the success of the border barrier in the San Diego area, it appears to be very important that this success not be repeated. The current Senate bill provides for the fencing of no more than one-fifth of the border and the placing of vehicle barriers in no more than one-ninth."

The lack of vigorous follow-through on previous fence vows has not escaped border stalwart, the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps (MCDC).

MCDC has long advocated what it calls "Border Security First" in the immigration reform debate, and in a press release sent out today says it "demands implementation of the 2006 Secure Fence Act funds already allocated to the Department of Homeland Security's treasury.

"MCDC reminds Senators that ‘Border Security First' is the overwhelming will of the America people, and encourages the millions of citizens who share this conviction to keep carrying the message to their elected officials. The pending Senate bill is undeniably an ‘Amnesty First' bill, with no true border security accountability whatever…"

Presidential candidate Rep. Duncan Hunter, R., Calif., recently described his take on the fate of the 2006 Secure Fence Act: "854 miles of double border fence was mandated to be constructed. Homeland Security has a billion bucks, cash on hand. It's been six months, and they've done 11 miles."

The latest lamenting about the stagnate border fence comes on the heels of some bad news about the more neighborly and politically correct electronic wall touted by the Department of Homeland Security.

Known as "Project 28," for the 28 miles of border that each of its towers will scan, the "virtual fence" forms the backbone of the Secure Border Initiative, or SBInet.

According to a recent report by the New York Times, this multibillion-dollar mix of technology, manpower, and nine 100-foot-tall towers with radar, high-definition cameras and other black boxes has been stalled by glitches.

Problems with the radar and cameras have forced the project to miss its June 13 starting date – bad timing for those in Congress who prefer the gadgetry over brick-and-mortal walls.

The ultimate irony may be that "Project 28" is funded by dollars provided by the 2006 Secure Fence Act.

As the Washington Post reported at the time, no sooner than Secure Fence became law, Capitol Hill gave the Bush administration wiggle room to distribute the money to a combination of projects -- not just the physical barrier along the southern border.

Money for the fence was allowed to be spent on "tactical infrastructure," another name for the Department of Homeland Security's favored "virtual fence."

According to the Post, Sens. John Cornyn, R-Tex., and Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Tex., were anxious at the time to amend the 2006 fence bill to give local governments more say about where fencing is erected. Republican leaders assuaged their misgivings by assuring them the Homeland Security Department would have flexibility to choose other options instead of fencing.

Groups, such as the Minutemen, worry that history may be repeated -- with the limited fence envisioned under the current Immigration Reform bill also stagnating and being quietly reconfigured.

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Critics of the newly revived Immigration Reform bill are looking hard at whether the promised secured border is an even trade-off for the controversial path to legalization for the 12 million already unlawfully in the country. Last year, Congress passed into law the Secure...
Wednesday, 27 June 2007 12:00 AM
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