Stephen Dinan and Jerry Seper, Washington Times, Dec. 16, 2005
The House voted last night to build nearly 700 miles of fence along the U.S.-Mexico border as it began the first major floor debate in years on enforcing immigration laws.
The vote, 260-159, came on an amendment to a border-security and employer-verification bill that is scheduled for a final vote today.
Republican leaders appeared to have cleared a remaining hurdle last night by promising to remove language that said there should be a legal means for foreign workers to come and go.
Some Republicans had argued that the provision, which was nonbinding, was a place-holder to attach a guest-worker plan in the future and thus was a deal-killer.
On the fence construction vote, 49 Democrats joined 211 Republicans in supporting it while 12 Republicans joined the Democrats and one independent in voting against it.
Polls show a fence has overwhelming support among voters.
Lawmakers and advocacy groups on both sides of the issue agreed that the bill never will become law as is, and even Republican leaders said it must include a guest-worker plan by the time it gets to President Bush.
“As we move this legislation to the president’s desk, it should include comprehensive reform,” Rep. David Dreier, California Republican and chairman of the Rules Committee, said on the floor.
The Senate is expected to begin debate early next year on enforcement of immigration laws, a guest-worker program and a path to citizenship for illegal aliens.