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September 15, 2006
Border Barrier The New Berlin Wall: Democrats

Apparently in desperate need of a history lesson, Democrats yesterday described the border security barrier bill passed by the House yesterday "another political gimmick" and called the barrier a new Berlin Wall:

The House yesterday easily approved building 700 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border in an effort to get major border-security legislation on President Bush's desk before November's elections.

"The time to address the border-security emergency is now, before Congress leaves for the November election," said House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, applauding the Republican-backed measure and introducing a slate of new border-security measures that he hopes to pass this month.

Yesterday's border-fence bill was approved on a 283-138 vote. The vast majority of House Republicans were joined by 64 Democrats to support the measure. Six Republicans voted against it. ...

Democrats dismissed the vote as "another political gimmick" by House Republicans who passed a tough border-security bill last year but have since been unable to persuade the Republican Senate to take it up. The Senate remains intent on its own bill that tightens border security but at the same time grants citizenship rights to some 10 million illegal aliens and creates a guest-worker program that will usher hundreds of thousands more foreign laborers into the U.S.

Yesterday, House Democrats called the 700-mile fence a new "Berlin wall" and expressed concern that it would drive illegal crossers deep into the dangerous desert in search of an unimpeded crossing. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, California Democrat, added, "It does nothing to secure our northern border."

The Republicans have, as I predicted, latched onto the border issue as a defining point for the midterm elections. Bill Frist has told us on more than one occasion that while immigration reform would not be on his agenda in the new session, national security would dominate -- and that includes the southern border. Expect Frist to push for a companion bill to endorse the barrier before the month runs out in an attempt to assure restive conservatives that the GOP has not forgotten one of their biggest issues.

The Democrats appear intent on assisting the GOP in making this a defining issue. Loretta Sanchez may have a good point about the northern border, but that's hardly an excuse for ignoring the southern border, where a great many more people flood across on a regular basis. The adoption of the Berlin Wall comparison by the entire caucus gives the Republicans an early Christmas present -- a rhetorical club which they should use repeatedly in campaigning this fall. Someone needs to explain to the Democrats that the Berlin Wall was designed to lock people into Berlin, not to keep Westerners from flooding the Communist zone. Comparing a respectable tool that allows the Border Patrol to become more effective at interdiction to the wall that turned East Berlin into a penal colony shows that Democrats understand neither border security nor the history of freedom and Communism in the late 20th century -- the latter of which they amply demonstrated during the 1980s.

The same obstacles still exist in the Senate as did before: the insistence by a minority of members that border security has to be tied to normalization for the illegals already inside the US. However, that insistence may fade as we get closer to the election. The House vote showed some progress in attracting former opponents. Harold Ford, Alan Mollohan, and James Moran led the more than 20 Democrats who switched their positions to approve the border wall. All of them face tough elections this fall, with Ford vying for Frist's seat in the Senate. Only Moran refused to acknowledge the pressure of the upcoming election on his decision.

Frist has solid electoral gold coming to him from the House. He will not let it sit unused before the election. He will ensure that lines get solidly drawn on border security before the midterms arrive, and the Democrats will continue to oblige him by reminding conservatives of all the reasons they need to flock to the polls this November.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 15, 2006 5:50 AM

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