SEPTEMBER 15, 2006
The House of Representatives easily passed (283-138) a bill this week to build a fence along the Mexico-US border, but it doesn’t mean that it will actually be built since there is still no funding for the huge project.
Without the money to build the 700-mile barrier along the nation’s southwestern border, the Secure Fence Act is more symbolic than anything else. The new law will supposedly allow the Department of Homeland Security to establish operational control over the international land and maritime borders of the United States.
This is crucial because nearly one million illegal immigrants cross into America annually, creating a clear threat to the nation’s safety. They include drug smugglers and violent criminals as well as potential terrorists. So, politicians like House Speaker Dennis Hastert can issue press releases patting themselves on the back for passing this bill but, the question remains; where is the money to make it happen?
Earlier this year the Senate overwhelmingly voted to build a much smaller fence along an active portion of the Mexican border but later voted against the funding to build it, leading one Alabama Senator to say that his fellow lawmakers do a lot of talking and that “the things we do often sound very good, but we never quite get there.” After public outrage, the Senate did an abrupt about face and finally voted to in fact fund the fence.
Will the same thing happen with the Secure Fence Act? After all, an early estimate of the cost of constructing double-layered fencing along the entire Mexico border ran around $2.2 billion. The investment seems worth it for a tool that has already proven effective. Illegal incursions have dropped tremendously along a 14-mile stretch of the San Diego-Mexico border after a fence was built. The barrier helped reduce illegal immigrant apprehensions from about 200,000 in 1992 to 9,000 in 2005.
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