Immigration Enforcement

Omnibus Appropriations Bill Guts Fencing, Other Immigration-Related revisions

From FAIR:

This week, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) came under increasing pressure for her amendment to the FY08 Omnibus Appropriations Bill (H.R.2764) that grants the Department of Homeland Security significant discretion regarding the border fence (Houston Chronicle, January 12, 2008). Approximately 700 miles of two-layered fencing was mandated by the Secure Fence Act of 2006, but since the legislation was signed into law, critics have been looking for opportunities to undermine it. Senator Hutchison as early as January 2007 expressed “deep skepticism” about the fence (Dallas Morning News, January 10, 2007) and during the course of the past year successfully offered several amendments that required Homeland Security to increase consultation with border communities and gave the Department more discretion in building the fence. None of the bills to which these amendments were attached passed, however, until the Omnibus Appropriations legislation was enacted in December.

Border security advocates claim the Hutchison amendment dismantles the Secure Fence Act. The amendment: (1) eliminates the requirement for two-layered fencing; (2) deletes the specific locations for fencing set out in statute and replaces them with language that gives Homeland Security broad discretion in determining where the fencing will be built; and (3) has a sweeping consultation requirement that requires Homeland Security to consult with federal, state, and local agencies, as well as Indian tribes and “property owners.”

Finally the Hutchison amendment is particularly troubling to fence advocates because of a paragraph that some argue calls into doubt the construction of any fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border. That language provides that notwithstanding the requirement that Homeland Security construct 700 miles of fencing along the southwest border, “[N]othing 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” (Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008, Division E, § 564(a)(2)(B)(ii) [internal paragraph (D)]).

Already, opponents of the border fence are gearing up for a lawsuit based on Hutchison’s amendment. Peter Schey, executive director of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, an organization supporting several opponents of the fence, sent Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff a letter on Monday threatening legal action to prevent any further fence construction. Schey’s principal claim is that the Secretary must restart the process of building the fence in order to consult with affected parties as required by the Hutchison amendment (Dallas Morning News, January 9, 2008).

Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA), one of the authors of the Secure Fence Act, told reporters Friday that the Texas Senator’s change was “either a blatant oversight or a deliberate attempt to disregard the border security of our country” (United Press International, January 11, 2008). In response to her critics, Senator Hutchison said, “I feel like this has been a little blown out of proportion” (Houston Chronicle, January 12, 2008). Hutchison insists her measure in no way jeopardizes the fence construction once due to get under way in Texas in the spring (Id.).

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January 14, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , ,

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