A plan directing the Secretary of Homeland Security “to achieve operational control over U.S. international land and maritime borders” by using many techniques, including “physical infrastructure enhancements to prevent unlawful border entry” has been forwarded to the president’s desk.
That plan, to mandate the first $1.2 billion in construction work on a fence to prevent illegal aliens, including potential terrorists, from wantonly crossing the border from Mexico into the United States, was sent to President Bush’s desk yesterday, according to a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo.
The Secure Fence Act of 2006 is the second half of the two-part legislative package needed for the work to begin; President Bush earlier signed into law a $34.8 billion funding package for the Department of Homeland Security that includes the money for the fence work.
The legislation defines “operational control” of the border as “the prevention of all unlawful U.S. entries, including entries by terrorists, other unlawful aliens, instruments of terrorism, narcotics, and other contraband.”
The president now has 10 days to act on the plan, which would address a problem that is estimated by officials with the BorderFenceProject.com to have an impact of $1 trillion annually, and Bush has indicated support for it as part of a larger package of measures.
House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., called the legislation “a key component to keeping America safe and stemming the tide of illegal immigration.”
They said American people are demanding a secure border and the fence work will respond to those needs.
“Unfortunately, the House and Senate Democrat Leaders voted against the Secure Fence Act. The Democrat immigration plan would fail the American people, allow dangerous criminals into our country and would set our homeland security back to pre-9/11 levels,” they said in a statement.
“The money was already appropriated to it (the fence) in a separate bill,” Tancredo’s press spokesman, Carlos Espinosa, told WND. “When the president signs this, it actually dictates work on the 700 miles of fence.”
An earlier bill allocated $1.2 billion to the project, but the new legislation says specifically where it will be started and what will be done, he said.
“The full $1.2 billion is appropriated toward the fence, whether it is physical or virtual. That’s basically the beginning, to get it going,” he said. “As we go along, the idea is to keep funding it as necessary.”
The targeted areas will include the most heavily trafficked areas, including some in Arizona and California. “From there we’ll se how things go,” he said.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas
Earlier, a leading senator on immigration-reform expressed doubts that plans for a 700-mile fence on the country’s nearly 2,000 mile-long border with Mexico ever would be fulfilled.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, chairman of the Immigration, Border Security and Citizenship Subcommittee, told WND “we have not yet appropriated nearly enough to complete the job.”
Cornyn supports a fence together with a technological solution to the problem of border security.
A bill signed by President Bush Oct. 4 allocated $1.2 billion to be spent during the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 for Southwest border fencing and other barriers, drawing immediately reaction from Mexico, which threatened to complain to the United Nations.
A spokesman for Mexican President Vicente Fox suggested the U.S. Congress is unlikely to appropriate enough funding to ever finish the 700-mile fence.
Cornyn’s comments come amid efforts by Republican officials to turn back concerns that President Bush will not sign the Secure Fence Act.
Cornyn insisted to WND that the first priority is to secure the border, and then deal with other related issues.
“Any effort to reform our immigration system first requires that we secure our borders and restore respect for our laws,” Cornyn said. ‘We can do this while we honor property rights and water rights, and while we keep lawful trade going in the border area.”
“Securing our border will require both money and time – a multi-year commitment by Congress,” he said. “It remains to be seen whether that will occur.”
He suggested Congress doesn’t have has the required resolve.
“We have seen over the past 20 years repeated instances of the federal government making promises regarding border enforcement, followed by failure to honor them,” he said.
The president’s spokesman, meanwhile, has confirmed to WND that the U.S. is deporting some illegal aliens as it works on the various facets of a comprehensive solution to the tens of millions of illegal aliens estimated to be in the United States already.
Spokesman Tony Snow, responding earlier to a question from Les Kinsolving, WND’s correspondent at the White House, said that there are deportations, but there also are complications.
Snow was asked why doesn’t the U.S. deport immigrants who have broken the law to enter the United States, and if it doesn’t, isn’t that disregarding the laws that the nation already has.
“Well, number one, the president does not disregard the law. And, number two, when you have the inability to determine who is here illegally or not, it significantly hampers your efforts,” Snow said.
“As part of eliminating ‘catch-and-release,’ we have, in fact, been deporting people,” he said.
President Bush also noted earlier said part of the solution to illegal immigration “must” include a way for those already in the United States but without legal authorization to be given that status.
At a recent event at the White House honoring Hispanic Heritage Month, he promised that the law would be enforced, even as the debate on immigration is conducted “in a way that is respectful to our heritage.”
“But at the same time, we must remember that in order to secure our borders, in order to make sure we fulfill our heritage, immigration reform must be comprehensive in nature. We must understand that you can’t kick 12 million people out of your country; that we must figure out a way to say to those that if you’re lawful and if you’ve contributed to the United States of America, there is a way for you to eventually earn citizenship,” he had said.
The issue of “amnesty” to illegals already in the country remains one of the hottest issues in the debate over illegal immigration. There are many who believe that the border laws need to be enforced first, to dry up the gusher of illegal aliens moving into the United States, and then those who are here can be addressed.
One of those groups is Americans for Legal Immigration, where spokesman William Gheen told WND earlier that without a solid enforcement of border access, there’s no point in having other laws.
“That’s where it comes down,” he said. “For any law to be a deterrent, the punishment must be greater than the rewards. Illegal aliens never will be able to pay for illegally immigrating. They must leave. That’s the only punishment we have that’s greater than the crime.”