Congress is poised to give the President a $516 billion omnibus spending bill that would downgrade previous mandates for a double-layered border fence to be built along the southern border.
The Secure Fence Act of 2006 required “two layers of reinforced fencing” be constructed in five separate areas, but Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R.) slipped a provision into a fiscal year 2008 spending bill that weakens the law.
Hutchison and fellow Texas Sen. John Cornyn (R.) believe Border and Customs Enforcement should have more freedom to build fencing where they see fit instead of having to follow exact requirements laid out in the Secure Fence Act, which calls for double-layered fencing in five specific areas, some of which run along the Texas/Mexico border.
(Information about these locations is at the end of this story).
When discussing border fence progress, administration officials are careful to discuss fencing in terms of “pedestrian” and “vehicular” fencing, not double-layered fencing. So far, only 150 miles of “pedestrian fencing” and 115 miles of “vehicular barriers” have been installed along the southern border. 370 miles of “pedestrian fencing” and 200 miles of “vehicle barriers” are expected to be constructed by the end of 2008, according to information released by the Department of Homeland Security.
Republican presidential candidate Rep. Duncan Hunter (Calif.), who wrote the Secure Fence Act of 2006, believes the administration is not serious about building double-layered fences.
In an interview last week Hunter said only 5.15 miles of double-layered fences have been built. Hunter said, “When I talked to the President he said, ‘They have done some border fence work because I was out there for a press conference.’ Well, they did just enough double border fence to do a press photo opportunity with the President. 5.15 miles.”
“After they’ve had a year and they’ve only built 5.15 miles of double layered fence the only reasonable conclusion there is that the administration does not want to built these miles of double layered border fence,” Hunter said.
The House is expected to approve the Senate version of the massive spending package later today. If this happens, the bill will then go to “conference” where final changes are worked out before it is sent to the President’s desk for his signature.
The Secure Fence Act of 2006 calls for double layered fencing:
-10 miles west of Tecate, California to 10 miles east of Tecate, California
-10 miles west of Calexico, California to 5 miles east of Douglas, Arizona*
-5 miles west of Columbus, New Mexico, to 10 miles east of El Paso, Texas
-5 miles northwest of Del Rio, Texas to 5 miles southeast of Eagle Pass, Texas
-15 miles northwest of Laredo, Texas to Brownsville, Texas**
*This specific point of entry was to have an interlocking surveillance camera system by May 30, 2007 and a completed fence by May 30, 2008
**This point of entry is required to be completed by December 31, 2008.
-an interlocking surveillance camera system be installed in “priority areas” by May 30, 2007 and fence construction is completed by May 30, 2008
Progress so far:
-150 miles of “pedestrian fence” and 115 miles of “vehicular barriers”
Fencing expected to be built by the end of 2008:
370 miles of “pedestrian fencing” and 200 miles of “vehicle barriers”