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.
Despite the bill’s requirement to reduce fencing, McCaul’s statement declared that “this bill is the toughest border security bill ever before Congress.”
But the leaders’ border security bill also doesn’t even try to block Obama’s catch-and-release policies, said the Hill staffer who opposes the leaders’ bill. Even if additional spending and border guards catch more migrants, Obama’s deputies will likely release them and give them work permits unless the laws are changed, he said.
GOP legislators who support the leaders’ bill are “unwilling participants in a con job” against their own voters, he said.
But the GOP leadership has fast-tracked the border bill, which will be debated and perhaps amended during a House hearing during the afternoon of Jan. 21.
In 2010, President Barack Obama claimed the partially built fence is “now basically complete.” Since then, he has allowed more than 150,000 lower-skilled Central Americans migrants who cross unfenced parts of the border to stay, apply for asylum, and get government benefits and work permits.
In November, Obama also promised to halt the repatriation of the 12 million illegals living in the United States, and has promised to give at least four million work permits to migrants with U.S.-born children.
In December, GOP leaders agreed to fund Obama’s de facto amnesty, despite overwhelming opposition from the GOP’s base and from swing voters.
Many GOP leaders say the nation’s employers should be allowed to hire hundreds of thousands of foreign workers for the food-sector, for blue-collar jobs and for professional work in hospitals, universities and many other non-technology jobs, plus technology jobs.
Texas legislators have strongly pushed for easy hiring of foreign migrants. For example, the chairman of the critical House rules committee, Texas Rep. Pete Sessions predicted the GOP would ensure a complete amnesty for the low-wage illegals now working in the United States.
Numerous polls show that Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to the displacement of American workers by migrant workers. For example, a September 2014 poll by Paragon Insights showed that large slices of the Democratic coalition would be “much more likely” to vote for a GOP candidate who says that “the first goal of immigration policy needs to be getting unemployed Americans back to work – not importing more low-wage workers to replace them.”
Thirty-eight percent of African-Americans, 39 percent of Democratic women, 36 percent of Latinos and roughly 47 percent of Midwesterners said they would be much more likely to support a GOP candidate who favors the employment of Americans.