On Oct. 26 at a White House ceremony, President George W. Bush signed a bill authorizing 700 miles of new fencing along the nearly 2,000-mile US-Mexico border in what was viewed as an effort to boost anti-immigrant Republican candidates just before the Nov. 7 elections. “We have a responsibility to enforce our laws,” said Bush. “We have a responsibility to secure our borders. We take this responsibility serious.” (AP, Oct. 10)
The House of Representatives passed the Secure Fence Act on Sept. 14 by a vote of 283-138. (NYT, Oct. 27) The Senate approved it on Sept. 29 by a vote of 80-19. (Washington Post, Sept. 30)
The law authorizes the construction of at least two layers of reinforced fencing around the border town of Tecate, California, and across nearly the entire length of Arizona’s border with Mexico. Another expanse would cover much of the southern border of New Mexico, and in Texas the fencing would cover the border areas between Del Rio and Eagle Pass, and between Laredo and Brownsville. The entire fence is supposed to be completed by the end of 2008. The law also orders the Department of Homeland Security to install surveillance cameras along the Arizona border by May 30, 2007. The homeland security secretary is to achieve “operational control” of the US border within 18 months using unmanned aerial vehicles, ground-based sensors, satellites, radar and cameras.
The bill includes no money for the fence, although a homeland security spending measure the president signed earlier in October included $1.2 billion toward the border project’s cost, including access roads, vehicle barriers, lighting and high-tech equipment. The entire fence project is expected to cost some $6 billion.
T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, a union representing border agents, said Oct. 25 that Customs and Border Protection statistics for the year ending Sept. 30 show arrests at border crossings down 8% nationally, but up in the San Diego sector–the area of the border with the most fencing. (AP, Oct. 26)
From Immigration News Briefs, Oct. 27