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.
Supporters of the fence said stopping the flow of illegal aliens is critical to dealing with illegal immigration.
“We need to stop the bleeding before we can stitch the wound,” said Rep. Phil Gingrey, Georgia Republican.
But Democrats said it will hurt commerce, irk neighboring countries and fail to keep people out.
“People will escape from Mexico and the southern border. This will only injure the relationships and cause no greater security,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, Texas Democrat.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican and the amendment’s chief sponsor, said the success of a fence near San Diego convinced Congress and voters that the concept works.
“Democrat and Republican, the people agree the fence has worked,” he said. “It’s cut down on murders, it’s cut down on smuggling, and it’s brought order on both sides of the border.”
Mr. Hunter’s plan calls for 698 miles of fence at five locations along the 1,940-mile border. The barrier would be modeled from the San Diego fence, a two-layered reinforced fence with roads, surveillance cameras and sensors. Cost estimates run from $1.5 million to $2 million per mile.
Polls show a fence has overwhelming support among voters.
But Mexican President Vicente Fox this week criticized the idea, calling it “disgraceful and shameful” and saying it “will not protect the economy of the United States.” He said a fence would violate migrants’ rights and instead repeated his call for Congress to pass a bill to legalize illegal aliens.
In a body where ideas usually take years to germinate, supporters said they were amazed at how quickly the fence idea grew from an idea that a few members were talking about this summer.View Entire Story
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