U.S. Senate Turns Back on Border Fence

Joe Murray, The Bulletin (Philadephia), January 2, 2007

In a quiet act of defiance, the Senate approved a $555 billion omnibus spending bill that removed legal requirements mandating the federal government fund 854 miles of a double layer border fence spanning America’s southwestern border.

The funding requirement was codified into law when Congress passed, and President George W. Bush signed, the Secure Fence Act (SFA) in 2006.

When the spending bill, which combines appropriations for a number of federal agencies, reached the Senate, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) attached S.Amdt. 2466 to the measure in order to silently gut the SFA’s spending requirement.

The Hutchison amendment reads, “Nothing in this paragraph shall require the secretary of homeland security to install fencing, physical barriers, roads, lighting, cameras and sensors in a particular location along an international border of the United States, if the secretary determines that the use or placement of such resources is not the most appropriate means to achieve and maintain operational control over the international border at such location.” Thus, critics argue the amendment results in a de facto repeal of the SFA.

“The Hutchison amendment gives DHS virtually total discretion over how and where the fence is built,” commented Steve Elliott, president of Grassfire.org. “In fact, DHS would not be required to build fencing in any particular location—and the double-layer mandate is totally gone.”

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But with the Senate’s amendment, the fate of the fence remains in limbo and sets the stage for another congressional showdown on immigration now that the amended Senate version comes back to the House for consideration.

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