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Bipartisan Senate vote for Border wall

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  • Steven L. Robinson
    Posted on Wed, May. 17, 2006 Senate votes to build 350 miles of border fencing By Michelle Mittelstadt The Dallas Morning News WASHINGTON - Embracing get-tough
    Message 1 of 1 , May 17, 2006
      Posted on Wed, May. 17, 2006

      Senate votes to build 350 miles of border fencing

      By Michelle Mittelstadt
      The Dallas Morning News

      WASHINGTON - Embracing get-tough measures, the Senate voted Wednesday to
      build 350 miles of new triple-layered fencing at the Southwest border and to
      exclude 500,000 illegal immigrants convicted of felonies or multiple
      misdemeanors from becoming citizens.

      But even as they placed a more conservative stamp on the huge immigration
      bill, lawmakers softened another border enforcement directive. They delayed
      a controversial Bush administration plan to require passports or similar ID
      for travelers - American and foreign - going to and from Mexico and Canada.

      Border communities, the Canadian government and business interests have
      protested loudly that the plan, due to take effect in 2008, would chill
      tourism, commerce and cross-border travel.

      And senators refused to strip out a key underpinning of their compromise,
      creation of a path to eventual citizenship for many of the 11 million to 12
      million immigrants here illegally.

      Even as the Senate forged through a series of votes, signs of just how hard
      it's going to be for Congress to get an immigration bill to President Bush's
      desk this year were evident elsewhere on Capitol Hill.

      Presidential adviser Karl Rove was dispatched to meet privately with a
      restive House Republican caucus in tumult over Bush's call to legalize
      millions of illegal immigrants and create a temporary worker program for
      future foreign arrivals.

      The Rove pep talk appeared to change few minds among House conservatives who
      insist the U.S.-Mexico border must be secured before any consideration can
      be given to people here illegally or future guest workers.

      "He heard loud and clear that we believe the House bill must be passed - and
      passed first," said Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas.

      And the Senate bill, far more generous than the House version, was denounced
      on the House steps by some immigrant-rights advocates who view it as wholly

      inadequate. Members of the March 25th Coalition, which helped organize the
      massive street rallies and boycotts, termed the Senate bill "repressive" and
      said they'd settle for nothing less than legalization for all illegal
      immigrants and near-unlimited visas for foreigners who want to come in the

      "We're not going to compromise," said Jesse Diaz, a March 25th Coalition

      The rift in Congress over immigration is mirrored within the
      immigrant-rights movement, which isn't speaking or lobbying in concert. Just
      hours after the March 25th Coalition's press conference, other Hispanic
      groups that view the Senate bill far more favorably than the House approach
      rallied on the National Mall to press for a comprehensive immigration fix.

      Several hundred immigrant advocates from Texas and other states crisscrossed
      Capitol Hill on Wednesday, pressing their case for a legalization plan.

      In the Senate, there was surprising unity over an amendment by Republican
      Sens. John Cornyn of Texas and Jon Kyl of Arizona that just weeks before was
      denounced by critics as a poison pill designed to take down the entire bill.

      On a 99-0 vote, the Senate rejected legalization for illegal immigrants
      convicted of felonies, three or more misdemeanors, or who have ignored
      deportation orders.

      "If you're a thug, if you're a crook, a murderer, a rapist or a bunko artist
      ... you don't really add any value" to the United States, said Sen. Lindsey
      Graham, R-S.C. "And the only person you can blame is yourself."

      As part of immigration action:

      On an 83-16 vote, senators approved Sen. Jeff Sessions' plan to build 350
      miles of new border fencing and 500 miles of vehicle barriers in highly
      trafficked areas to be designated by the Homeland Security Department. The
      Alabama Republican estimated his measure, which acts on a Homeland Security
      request for the fencing, would cost $1 billion, though other estimates
      placed it as high as $4 billion. The House has approved 700 miles of fencing
      along the nearly 2,000-mile border.

      By voting for more fencing, "We are sending a signal that we are serious
      about stopping the flow of illegal immigrants over the border," Sessions

      But critics complained about the signal a border fence would send to Mexico.

      "What we have here has become a symbol for the right wing in American
      politics," said Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill.

      By a 50-48 vote, the Senate agreed to an amendment by Cornyn that would deny
      illegal immigrants enrolled in a temporary worker program the right to
      self-petition for legal permanent residence. Instead, employers would
      petition for the green cards after proving they'd first tried to find an
      American worker for the job. Democrats, who strongly opposed the measure,
      said they'd try to revisit the matter on Thursday.

      The mood was sour elsewhere, with Senate appropriations leaders and the
      White House clashing over how to pay for Bush's plan to send 6,000 National
      Guardsmen to the border.

      The White House is adamant the deployment be funded by a $1.9 billion
      allocation set aside just weeks ago in a war-time emergency spending bill
      for vehicles, aircraft and boats for border surveillance. But appropriators
      wanted to find the money elsewhere and retain funding they say the Border
      Patrol sorely needs.

      As for the Border Patrol agents who now won't get equipment, "A lot of them
      are going to be sitting in cars that don't run or in airplanes that don't
      take off," said a frustrated Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., who had secured the


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