Thursday, July 9, 2009

More border fencing could be on the way, warns No Border Wall group

Rio Grande Guardian
July 8, 2009

McALLEN, July 8 - The No Border Wall coalition has warned that an extra 700 miles of border fencing could be built as a result of a Senate amendment to a Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill.

“This is why the fight is not over. Even in places where the wall is ‘finished,’ more will be built if these are signed by President Obama,” said No Border Wall coalition spokesman Scott Nicol.

“Gaps in the walls in Texas will be filled in, vehicle barriers in Arizona will be replaced with 16 foot steel walls, and single layered walls will be doubled.”

The Border Network for Human Rights, a community organization based in El Paso and southern New Mexico, is also upset with the success of the amendment.

“It seems that senators have decided to ignore the basic mandate expressed in the last elections, which was to change ill-conceived immigration policies,” said Fernando Garcia, executive director of Border Network.

“Instead of working hard to find comprehensive, practical and efficient solutions for our broken immigration system, senators have decided to continue with dysfunctional and fiscally irresponsible border enforcement policies.”

Garcia said that when the wall is complete, it will have cost tax-payers more than $9 million dollars per mile.

“A minority of anti-immigrant senators have hijacked national security policy,” Garcia said. “It appears that rhetoric, hate, and fear are still driving the immigration policy and that nothing has changed from the previous administration and Congress that scape-goated border residents and immigrant communities at a huge cost to the American taxpayer.”

The amendment to the Fiscal Year 2010 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Bill was sponsored by Sen. Jim DeMint, a Republican from South Carolina. The vote was 54 to 44 in favor of the amendment. The amendment calls for another 700 miles of double-layered border fencing to be built by Dec. 31, 2010.

“The American people were promised a secure border fence three years ago and it’s time to make it happen,” DeMint said, after the vote. “Our southern border has become a battleground for illegal immigration, drug trafficking, and human trafficking, and it’s vulnerable to terrorists. Unfortunately, our government has dragged its feet for years and tried to use untested and un-secure ‘virtual’ fencing instead of actual, physical fencing.”

DeMint said the first priority of the nation must be national security. “We can only achieve that goal with secure borders. I’m pleased with the strong bipartisan vote in favor of a finishing a real border fence next year. I will work to ensure no one cuts or weakens this important provision in conference,” he said.

The Fiscal Year 2008 Omnibus spending bill required 700 miles of reinforced double-layer fencing to built along the southern border and set a deadline for 370 miles of the fence to be completed by December 31, 2008, DeMint said. To this date, he said, DHS has only constructed 34.3 miles of double-layer fencing, leaving more than 660 miles of required double-layer fencing remaining to be built.

The DeMint amendment says “ineffective fencing” to restrain pedestrians, such as vehicle barriers and virtual fencing, does not meet the 700 miles required by law. The amendment sets a deadline of December 31, 2010 for completion of the required 700 miles of reinforced double-layer fencing and the installation of related equipment.

The amendment also requires the secretary of DHS to submit a report to Congress by September 30, 2009 on the progress made and her plans for completing the fence by December 31, 2010.

Texas Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Corny, both Republicans, voted for the amendment, Nicol said. Neither senator has sent out a news release about their vote.

Other senators from border states to back the measure, Nicol said, were Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein, both Democrats, of California, and John McCain, and Jon Kyl, both Republicans, of Arizona.

Another amendment has been introduced by Kyl that calls for funds to build “not fewer than 330 miles of at least double layer fencing,” Nicol said. “Hopefully this one will not also pass,” he said.

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