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Bordering on Limbo By: Marion Edwyn Harrison, Esq.
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Secure Fence Act of 2006 has a life of confusion and limited effectiveness all its own. On October 4 and December 7, 2006, again on April 5, 2007, texts following, this writer addressed the meandering legal fate of the Mexican Border fence.

The basic rationale from the inception has been, and remains, that fencing, if effectively constructed and supported by adequate border patrol, very substantially would minimize the number of prospective immigrants unlawfully crossing into the United States. It also greatly would reduce the extensive criminal violence endangering the life and property of American citizens (and of lawful and unlawful immigrants) in southern and somewhat southern Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas - and, more indirectly, throughout our country.

The 110th Congress, 1st Session, is to adjourn two days hence, amid unprecedented internal Congressional confusion and possibly unprecedented internal ill will. In that context, it further has complicated the issue of the efficacy of Mexican Border fencing.

In August 2007, the George W. Bush administration, through Secretaries Michael Chertoff, of the Department of Home Security, and Carlos Gutierrez, of the Department of Commerce, announced a 28-point program to improve border security and other immigration matters, the first six points relating to border security. Specifically, the administration instituted an attempt, for December 31, 2008, completion, to add 18,300 Border Patrol agents; to build 370 miles of fencing, 300 miles of vehicle barriers, 105 camera and radar towers and to add three additional UAVs.

Amid its internal chaos, figuring out how to rob the millions of taxpayers not benefited by earmarks, creating near-havoc with respect to Iraqi War planning and otherwise busy, both Houses of Congress have passed a $515 billion spending bill, now in reconciliation of differences between the two Houses. The bill, of course, if enacted at all as a 3,500-page omnibus appropriations act, should have been enacted months ago, inasmuch as Fiscal Year 2008, for which it appropriates, began on October 1, 2007.

What about these 3,500 pages and the Mexican Border fence? Buried in the bill is a provision that would remove the Secure Fence Act of 2006 requirement for two layers of reinforced fencing and substitute a weaker barrier. Amid the self-created Congressional chaos, several Senators, possibly others, are contending that local authorities should have more say as to fencing structure. If one concedes the possibility - if a bit remote - that various local authorities have relevant expertise as to fence composition the obvious question is why was such supposed expertise not timely disclosed and extensively evaluated many months ago?

Regardless of the answer, if any meaningful answer there be, the Omnibus Bill is a monster of diverse largess, among the categories: restoration of proposed administration reductions of $1.7 billion for college financial aid; $1 billion for health-care access; $767 million for elementary-school education, special education, after-school programs and Head Start - just to enumerate a few as to which one might wonder what happened to federalism and why the federal government is involved at all. The pervasive points, of course, are that diverse subjects should not be combined in one gigantic bill; that all appropriations should follow extensive research and adequate hearings; and that every appropriation should be enacted well before the commencement of the fiscal year for which it appropriates.

Meantime, who knows what kind of fence, if any, will be built during the remaining 9+ months of Fiscal Year 2008 and how efficacious whatever is built will be?

Marion Edwyn Harrison is President of, and Counsel to, the Free Congress Foundation.

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