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September 18, 2006
Border Fence Vote Upcoming

Bill Frist posts that he will push for a vote this week on the border fence proposal currently under debate in the Senate. The Secure Fence Act of 2006 will authorize the construction of 700 miles in border barriers as well as higher-tech methods of security:

One of the most important and most effective ways that we can stop illegal immigration is through the construction and proper maintenance of physical fences along the highest trafficked, most commonly violated sections of our border with Mexico.

Take the case of San Diego. According to the FBI Crime Index, crime in San Diego County dropped 56.3% between 1989 and 2000, after a fence stretching from the Ocean to the mountains near San Diego was substantially completed. And, according to numbers provided by the San Diego Sector Border Patrol in February 2004, apprehensions decreased from 531,689 in 1993 to 111,515 in 2003.

That’s why I strongly support the Secure Fence Act of 2006 … and that’s why I’m bringing this crucial legislation to the floor of the Senate this week for an up-or-down vote. By authorizing the construction of over 700 miles of two-layered reinforced fencing along our southwest border and by mandating the use of cameras, ground sensors, UAVs and other forms of hi-tech surveillance, this legislation would help us gain control over every inch of our borders – once and for all.

I have predicted exactly this move several times since my interview with Frist, and the effort makes political sense. It will force the Senate to vote on an issue that many people see as critical to our national security , and the bill provides a common-sense solution to the chronically porous border in the American Southwest. Those who vote against it, and especially those who attempt to filibuster it, will have to answer why they insisted on linking national security to normalization for illegal immigrants. It also has the ability to fire up a dispirited conservative base and generate enthusiasm for midterm GOTV efforts.

It's a win-win, which is why I knew that Frist would never leave this on the shelf to gather dust.

However, a number of CQ readers noted that the bill does not contain the funding for the border barrier. I exchanged e-mails with a senior Hill staffer earlier this evening and asked about the funding. He told me that the DoD appropriation contains $1.8 billion for 370 miles of the fence. Frist supports more funding for the project, and authorizing the construction will put pressure on Congress to produce the necessary funds -- which by my estimate will take another $1.5 billion, more or less. More appropriations will come through in this final portion of the Congressional session, and perhaps the GOP can get that attached to another bill.

Keep an eye out for the fence's vote later this week. I'm guessing that supporters of comprehensive immigration reform will attempt a filibuster, but it will be tough to go home and explain why Congress can't build a border barrier as a first step towards that end.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 18, 2006 9:47 PM

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