Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Bill Would Allow Bigger Border Fence

Congressional Quarterly
July 21, 2009

By Rob Margetta

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., is set to introduce a bill this week that would give Homeland Security the authority to build 350 miles of reinforced border fence whenever and wherever it deems necessary.

According to his staff, Hunter intends for the bill to serve as a remedy for DHS’s apparent lack of authority to build additional border fencing.

In 2006, when Congress mandated the construction of 700 miles of border fence, it gave DHS until December 2008 to determine all of the locations for the barrier. The department has currently completed more than 660 miles of fencing and has awarded contracts for the remaining miles.

A problem with the current situation, Hunter’s office said, is that DHS’s authority to build more fencing has technically expired. Hunter’s draft bill would give DHS the ability to erect up to 350 miles of reinforced fencing “where such fencing would be most practical and effective and provide for the installation of additional physical barriers, roads, lighting, cameras, and sensors to gain operational control of the southwest border.”

However, the bill contains no deadlines or requirements for Homeland Security to exercise that authority.

Another provision in of bill would place reporting requirements on DHS’s efforts to control the border. If the number of arrests along any sector of the border rises 40 percent from the previous fiscal year, the bill would require the department to submit a report to Congress detailing how it plans to regain control of the situation.
Hunter is expected to introduce the bill as early as Wednesday, with Reps. Ed Royce, R-Calif., Bart Stupak, D-Mich., and Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, joining him as cosponsors.

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