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Congress approves 700 mile border fence

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060930/ap_on_go_co/congress_immigration;_ylt=Am9Hrr3jAvbclTakbJVegceMwfIE;_ylu=X3oDMTA3OXIzMDMzBHNlYwM3MDM- Congress approves 700
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 29, 2006

      Congress approves 700 mile border fence

      By SUZANNE GAMBOA, Associated Press Writer 13 minutes

      WASHINGTON - Republicans will go into the elections
      with a message that they've made great strides
      fighting illegal immigration, including authorizing a
      fence along one-third of the U.S.-Mexico border and
      making a $1.2 billion down payment on it.

      Among its final tasks before leaving to campaign, the
      Senate on Friday night passed and sent to
      President Bush a bill authorizing 700 new miles of
      fencing on the southern border. No one knows how much
      it will cost, but a separate bill also on the way to
      the White House makes a $1.2 billion down payment on
      it. A 14-mile segment of fence under construction in
      San Diego is costing $126.5 million.

      The fence bill was passed by the House two weeks ago.
      The Senate vote on it Friday night was 80-19.

      In addition to money for starting work on the fence, a
      homeland security bill passed Friday by the House and
      later by the Senate includes $380 million to hire
      1,500 more Border Patrol agents and money to build
      detention facilities to hold 6,700 more illegal
      immigrants until they can be deported.

      "We have made giant steps in terms of our ability to
      control illegal immigration," House Majority Leader
      John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters.

      The fence bill became House Republicans' immigration
      focus in September after they abandoned President
      Bush's call to bring millions of illegal immigrants
      into the American mainstream.

      In addition to the money in the Homeland Security
      spending bill, Boehner cited Bush's deployment of the
      National Guard on the border and more frequent arrests
      of illegal immigrants at work sites.

      "The perception that has been painted mistakenly is
      that the United States government, our Congress is not
      delivering to the American people on a huge problem
      that's out there," said Senate Majority Leader Bill
      Frist, R-Tenn. "We're active."

      Democrats and immigration advocates say Republicans
      can hardly claim victory.

      House Republicans failed to win measures for deporting
      immigrant gang members and empowering local police to
      enforce immigration laws. Their biggest obstacle
      turned out to be another Republican, Senate Judiciary
      Committee Chairman Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

      House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the
      border security achievements trumpeted by Republicans
      don't measure up to the more comprehensive reforms her
      party backed. What the GOP calls achievements fall
      "very far short of what Democrats have proposed over
      and over and over again," she said.

      After a debate that stretched over three months, the
      Senate in May passed a sweeping immigration bill that
      combined tougher border enforcement measures with new
      guest worker programs and a plan to give millions of
      illegal immigrants already in the U.S. a shot at

      Despite Bush's ringing endorsement of the measure, the
      House would have no part of it, sticking to the bill
      it passed five months earlier that would treat illegal
      immigrants and people who offer them aid as felons.

      Rather than negotiate a compromise with the Senate,
      Republican leaders plucked out many provisions of the
      House bill for new votes in both the House and Senate
      over the past two weeks.

      "It's been two years of high visibility, high volume
      debate in terms of which way to go in the immigration
      system," said Frank Sharry, executive director of the
      National Immigration Forum. In the end the debate
      ended in a tie, he said.

      Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (news, bio, voting record),
      D-Mass., called the fence "a bumper sticker solution
      for a complex problem."

      "It's a feel-good plan that will have little effect in
      the real world," he said. "We all know what this is
      about. It may be good politics, but it's bad
      immigration policy. That's not what Americans want."

      Sens. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, and Dianne Feinstein,
      D-Calif., made a 11th-hour appeal to colleagues to
      include in the fence bill a measure to help the
      agriculture industry, which relies heavily on
      undocumented workers.

      Those workers have become harder to find because of
      increased border enforcement and availability of jobs
      for the workers in construction and other industries,
      they said. Consumers ultimately will pay the price for
      that at the grocery store, they added.

      "Pickers are few and the growers blame Congress,"
      Craig said, reading a news headline. "The growers
      ought to blame Congress. They ought to blame a
      government that has been dysfunctional in an area of
      immigration that has been problem for decades."


      The secure fence bill is HR 6061; the homeland
      security spending bill is HR 5441.

      On the Net:

      To find legislation: http://thomas.loc.gov
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