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FINO: Fence in name only

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By Michelle Malkin  •  April 4, 2007 01:53 AM

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Fence? What fence?

Last September, I said this about the House vote to approve a 700-mile fence at the southern border:

There’s no funding for the fence, which will take years to build if it ever does get funded. There are so many other immediate reforms that could have been adopted this year that would have strengthened immigration enforcement, closed deportation loopholes immediately, and provided true relief at the border. (And don’t even get me started on this administration’s renewed laxity at the front door, which has been thrown open to tens of thousands of new Saudi student visa holders while enforcement against millions of current visa overstayers remain virtually non-existent.)

The 700-mile fence vote is an election season gesture, and grass-roots conservatives who have watched the GOP squander away this issue afor six years are not going to be appeased by mid-September 2006 gesture politics.

Last October, on the day the Secure Fence Act was signed, I noted GOP efforts to water it down and criticized border security symbolism.

And as I noted here last fall, USNews and World Report underscored my point about the funding for the fence in name only:

Although the Congressional Budget Office estimates it will cost $3.2 million a mile, Congress voted to hand DHS just $1.2 billion in fiscal year 2007 for construction; that would cover the cost of about 370 miles of fence, not 700. What’s more, a congressional deal gives DHS the flexibility to use money for other purposes besides the wall itself, most notably technology and roadways. Some of the money could go to a project DHS was already working on: a plan to dot the border with up to 1,800 massive observation towers equipped with cameras. Michael Jackson, the No. 2 official at DHS, says the department plans “to refine and assess how much [steel fencing] we need with the new technology tool kit.” DHS, he adds, will most likely build “somewhere in the ballpark” of 370 miles of San Diego-style fence.

The bill offers DHS other kinds of wiggle room on the fence as well. In a last-minute effort to appease two Republican holdouts-including Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who had concerns about local input on the location of fencing -congressional leaders committed in writing to changing some specific aspects of the legislation after the November elections. Those changes will ensure that local governments and American Indian tribes will be consulted “regarding the exact placement of the fence,” according to a letter signed by Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

Now comes a fresh report on the disappearing fence from yesterday’s Washington Times:

Six months after approving a bill promising to build some 850 miles of fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, the Bush administration and Senate Republicans are now saying 370 miles is enough.

Not news if you’ve been paying attention.

There are more open-borders cave-ins in store:

In his negotiations with Republican senators, Mr. Bush also appears to have rejected the key compromise in the Senate bill passed last year: allowing only longtime illegal aliens with “roots” to have a path to citizenship. He instead favors a more circuitous path that is open to almost all illegal aliens.

Mr. Bush has embraced higher financial penalties for illegal aliens who want to remain in the United States, and for the first time has accepted specific “triggers,” including stepped-up enforcement, that must be met before legalization and guest-worker plans go into effect, according to a PowerPoint presentation that administration officials and advisers say represents the state of discussions between Mr. Bush and Senate Republicans.

The presentation, first obtained and released by U.S. News & World Report [Chris Kelly spotlights the PowerPoint here], calls for 370 miles of fencing, 200 miles of vehicle barriers and 300 miles of electronic monitoring on the border. By that trigger, the guest-worker and legalization programs could begin with less than 900 miles of the 1,950-mile U.S.-Mexico border being monitored or blocked.

Maybe it’s time for another Send A Brick campaign.

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