September 22, 2008
By Kevin Sieff
Members of Congress will not stand in the way of the border fence's construction, despite the project's rising costs.
The Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee approved a reprogramming request worth nearly $400 million, allowing construction of the barrier to continue in South Texas. Rising costs of raw materials exhausted funding allocated for the project.
"This committee will not stand in the way of (the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's) efforts to construct fencing by the end of the year solely because of funding shortfalls, even though I have serious doubt about its ability to accomplish its stated goals," wrote Subcommittee Chairman David Price, D-NC, in a letter to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff.
Price, who voted against the border fence in 2006, expressed his concern about the barrier's construction, urging DHS to "walk the line" in Cameron and Hidalgo counties, and to limit the duration of contracts to February 2009. But the appropriations request was approved with few concrete stipulations.
The money will be redirected from a number of DHS accounts, including $214 million from planned technology investments and $35 million from U.S. Border Patrol. Technology improvements on the border will now be shifted into 2009 or 2010, Price said.
Congress' decision was greeted with derision from the barrier's opponents.
"The Texas Border Coalition (TBC) is disappointed that Congress has approved the reprogramming of $400 million in fiscal 2008 funding to cover the cost overruns for the border wall," said TBC Chairman Chad Foster. "TBC is convinced that the border wall is a waste of taxpayer funds - it won't work, it is lethal to people and wildlife and eventually will be torn down."
With its funding problems resolved, the federal government must now settle more than 200 pending lawsuits before the fence can be constructed in parts of South Texas, including Cameron County. Only 341 miles of the proposed 670 miles of new fencing have been constructed to date.
In response to recent legal and financial holdups, DHS now states that the barrier will be under contract, rather than completed, by the end of 2008.