The new border bills drafted by Republican leaders require the actual removal of at least 66 miles of anti-pedestrian border fencing between laborers in Mexico and employers in the United States.
The border bills also require the construction of only 27 miles of effective double-layer fencing along the 2,000-mile border.
“It is a remarkable that the direction of our progress is going backwards, from a goal of building 700 miles of double-layer border fencing [in 2006] to only 27 miles [in 2015],” said a Hill staffer who opposes the leaders’ bills.
“Where the double-layer fence has been put in, it has worked spectacularly. The public is with us 80, 90 percent on this issue,” he added.
The bill would remove at least 66 miles of solid metal border fencing. It will be replaced by a single layer of see-through barriers that help surveillance of would-be border crossers.
Extra fencing would be a waste of money, according to Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security.
“The bill matches resources to needs, putting 27 more miles of [double-layer] fencing where fencing is needed, and technology where technology is needed,” said the statement.
“In our conversations with outside groups, experts and stakeholders, we learned that it would be an inefficient use of taxpayer money to complete the fence. … We are using that money to utilize other technology to create a secure border,” said the statement.
A House staffer said the McCaul’s bill doesn’t require a major fence because of advocacy by Heritage and Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform.
Dan Holler, communications director for Heritage Action for America, told The Daily Caller that Heritage did not recommend against fencing.
Senate committee staffers declined to offer any reassurances that Senators would modify the bill to fund more fencing and to block Obama’s catch-and-release policy, prior to a Senate vote in a few weeks.
“We’re going to be looking at everything,” said a committee staffer. “We can’t give any detail beyond that.”
The Senate bill is co-sponsored by Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, who co-sponsored the Senate’s 2013 immigration bill.
“We introduced the McCaul [House] bill [in the Senate] as is and plan to update and improve it as we study the issue through [House] briefings and hearings,” said the staffer, who works for the Senate’s homeland security committee. The committee is chaired by Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson.
The public strongly supports a border fence. An April 2013 poll by Rasmussen shows “that 57% of Likely U.S. Voters think the United States should continue building a border fence, while 29% disagree.” Support for the fence is much higher among the GOP-leaning voters that provided the votes for the GOP victory in November.
A 2006 law required the construction of 700 miles of double-layer fencing along the 2,000 mile border. However, Congress quietly modified the bill in 2008 to allow the construction of simple, ineffective fences in place of the required double-layer fencing.
Officials claim that just over 600 miles of the border now have obstructions, including barriers. But those barriers include lines of bollards to stop vehicles, plus single-layer “landing mat fencing” and only 36.5 miles of double-layer fencing.
The leaders’ bills call for the replacement of anti-pedestrian mat fences by anti-vehicle bollards.
The bollards will allow migrants to be driven up to the border, and then walked over to a pick-up vehicle on the U.S. side.
“Not later than 18 months after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall replace, at a minimum, each of the following: (A) Thirty-one miles of landing mat fencing with bollard style fencing in the Border Patrol’s San Diego sector. (B) Five miles of landing mat fencing with bollard style fencing in the Border Patrol’s El Centro sector. (C) Three miles of landing mat fencing with bollard style fencing in the Border Patrol’s Yuma sector. (D) Twenty-five miles of landing mat fencing with bollard style fencing in the Border Patrol’s Tucson sector. (E) Two miles of landing mat fencing with bollard style fencing in the Border Patrol’s El Paso sector,” says a section on page 12 of the House bill, HR 399.