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October 27, 2006
Signed In Broad Daylight

George Bush signed the Secure Fence Act, as promised, in a public ceremony at the White House yesterday morning. He cast his signature as one step of progress on the journey towards immigration reform:

President Bush signed into law on Thursday a bill providing for construction of 700 miles of added fencing along the Southwestern border, calling the legislation “an important step toward immigration reform.”

The new law is what most House Republicans wanted. But it is not what Senate Republicans or Mr. Bush originally envisioned, and at the signing, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, the president repeated his call for a far more extensive revamping of immigration law.

A broader measure, approved by the Senate last spring, would have not only enhanced border security but also provided for a guest worker program and the possibility of eventual citizenship for many illegal immigrants already in the country.

But that bill was successfully resisted by House Republicans, who feared a voter backlash against anything that smacked of “amnesty” for illegal immigrants. Those lawmakers portrayed the Senate bill as embracing just that, no matter what the measure’s backers, including Mr. Bush, said to the contrary.

Eventually the president realized that a broad approach was dead for this election year, and he bowed to political reality and embraced the House concept, at least for the time being. On Sept. 29, just before its members headed home to campaign, the Senate approved construction of 700 miles of fencing, which the House had approved that month.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist hailed the innclusion of the SFA into law at his VOLPAC site:

Although I'm leaving the Senate in fulfillment of the pledge I made 12 years ago, I'll be fighting to ensure that every inch of the fence authorized today is funding fully and constructed promptly ... and so should my fellow conservatives throughout America. And I'll be fighting for better interior enforcement of our immigration laws. We simply must provide tamper proof, biometric identification cards that will enable employers to hire only legal workers. And we must authorize strict penalties for those employers who willingly defy our immigration laws.

Securing our borders is not an insurmountable problem. But it is a problem that House and Senate Democrat leadership - who voted against the Secure Fence Act - irresponsibly ignore.

The SFA has had a host of odd expectations assigned to it. People expected it to die in conference committee, and that made sense; the Senate wanted a comprehensive reform package and didn't want to give up the fence as leverage. After the bill languished this summer, Frist saw an opening for its passage in the Senate and seized it. Even after that, conservatives expected a pocket veto -- and when that didn't materialize, a private signing in order for the White House to de-emphasize its passage.

Perhaps immigration hard-liners can feel somewhat vindicated at this point. Twenty years after an amnesty that utterly failed to fix the problem, the border problem finally has received some attention. And while Bush still wants to address the issue of the millions of illegal immigrants already in the country, at least some progress has been made towards securing the border to solve the most pressing problem first: the illegal entry into the US.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 27, 2006 6:35 AM

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» Bush signs the Secure Fence Act from Bill's Bites
Bush Approves 700-Mile ‘Concept Fence’ at Border (2006-10-26) -- President George Bush today signed into law a bill that authorizes a 700-mile long “concept fence” on the U.S.-Mexico border.The concept fence, a project approved but not funded b... [Read More]

Tracked on October 27, 2006 7:58 AM

» First Cup 10.27.06 from bRight & Early
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» Headline Summaries: Border Security from Traction Control
Headlines and links from all over (10/25/2006 – 10/27/2006): (Hat Tip to Michelle Malkin for the pic.) October 27, 2006 Testing Immigration U.S. sex offender released after immigration hearing Minuteman Border Fence Project Brings High-Tech Security... [Read More]

Tracked on October 27, 2006 11:38 AM

"Show me a 50-foot wall and I'll show you a 51-foot ladder" Democrat Janet Napolitano [Read More]

Tracked on October 27, 2006 1:09 PM


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