Paraphrasing Shakespeare, To build, or not to build; that is the question. Will the Bush administration build a fence to secure the U.S.-Mexico border, or are we being bamboozled with sound and fury, signifying nothing?
Conflicting news stories have appeared since the Senate and the House passed the Secure Fence Act calling for the building of a 700-mile fence along our 2,000-mile southern border. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said, "There is no credibility when it comes to proposals for border control and immigration reform."
When President George W. Bush was asked about his alleged promise to sign the fence bill, he restricted his reply to an appropriations bill that includes some funding for something to be done at the border. Meanwhile, the Senate defeated Cornyn's bill to appropriate $3.7 million in supplemental funds to secure the border, although Cornyn said, "We have not yet appropriated nearly enough to complete the job."
Senate leaders bragged about the Secure Fence Act as one of this session's primary accomplishments, but immediately thereafter shot it through with loopholes that virtually ensure it will never be built. That must be what they mean by a virtual fence.
Just before recessing to go out on the campaign trail, the Senate and House gave the Bush administration authority to decide where, when and how long a fence should be, plus approval to spend fence money on a variety of alternatives including roads, technology and infrastructure. Congress even gave Homeland Secretary Michael Chertoff discretion over whether to build a fence or choose other options.
When the open-borders crowd asserts that a fence will be ineffective because people can climb over it, through it and around it, what they really mean is that the fence LAW will be ineffective because a variety of loopholes enable the Bush administration to go around it. If the administration doesn't start construction on the fence before Nov. 7, we can assume that the passage and signing of a fence bill were just pre-election posturing to fool voters.
Advocates of a fence never claimed it would be the total solution to stopping the entry of illegal immigrants. A fence is just the first step that must be followed by a greatly increased border-patrol force, Social Security verification of employees, and tracking of visitors who become illegal immigrants when they overstay their visas.
But, as Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., said, border fencing is a "critical component." The triple-layered fence that was finally built near San Diego has led to a 70 percent drop in illegal immigration there.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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