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The Fence, Again

Saturday, June 9, 2007  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt
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Yesterday the editors at The National Review have put up a call for the rapid construction of the border fence as a precondition to resurrecting the immigration bill.  “When Americans are confident that the government is committed to enforcing any immigration laws,” they wrote, “they will be more open to changes to those laws.”

“Build that fence,” they concluded.  (HardStarboard has a comprehensive review of the week’s events, btw.)

This essential nexus between the border fence and immigration reform is so crucial that I find myself amazed by the proponents of immigration reform who don’t seem to get it.  The fence is the visibile expression of the invisible resolve –loudly proclaimed but hardly manifest anywhere– to actually enforce the immigrations laws present and future.  Because so little has been done in the past, even proponents of regularization of most of the illegals in the country are demanding the actual cosntruction of the fence as a down payment on the security guarantees being offered by the Administration and senators backing the big bill.

I am sorry to report that I don’t think the fence will be built any faster, or in any greater length, than what is already on the table, which should end the talk of resurrecting the bill, but won’t.

From my interview with Senator Jon Kyl yesterday:

HH: What about having the entire fence built before the 601H probationary benefits kick in? Is there going to be another amendment on getting more of the fence done as a trigger?

JK: You’re talking about the entire 700 miles that’s been authorized?

HH: Or more of it. It’s right now at what, 350?

JK: Yeah, the bill calls, doesn’t let anything happen until 370 miles are built. And the total amount that’s authorized is about 700. I don’t think that any of the other amendments that I’ve seen condition the trigger on building more than the 370 miles. But it is true that that’s not the end of it. They keep building. They don’t stop at 370.

HH: But the trigger for Z visa issuance would be 370, as opposed to 500…[# More #]

JK: Yes, 370, correct. Now there was an extension of the vehicle barriers from 200 miles to 300 miles. That was adopted by the Judd Gregg amendment.

HH: Can I…why wouldn’t they up it to satisfy the security people, Senator? Why not go to 600 or 550, something?

JK: I think the only reason, Hugh, was that the…on the pace that they are on with the contractors they’ve hired to do this, with as much speed but with the cost benefit that you’re not doing a Manhattan Project on it essentially, that they know that they can complete 371 miles within the 18 month period that they’re talking about. They weren’t sure that they could do a whole lot more than that within the 18 month period. Now 18 months is simply a guess as to when the trigger will be pulled. The employee verification system is the long pole in the tent. That’s what’s going to determine how quickly it’s done. That could take longer. And if it takes 20 months, or 24 months, for example, then you’re going to see a lot more fence built than 371 miles, because they’re going to keep on building.

HH: Then the real question for me becomes why not push them harder, because it is Manhattan Project importance, Southern border security, and the 601H probationary set of benefits, travel and employment. Any changed contemplated to those, Senator Kyl? If not, why not?

JK: The answer on the fence again is 371 miles of additional fencing is a lot of additional fencing. And I don’t think we should minimize the effect of 20,000 Border Patrol agents, and 370 miles of fencing, and 300 miles of vehicle barriers. That is a lot, and that will have a dramatic impact on reducing illegal immigration. And I’m sorry, the second part of the question?

HH: Why give travel and employment rights the day after the background check is not bounced back, why not wait…

JK: Okay, yeah, thank you.

HH: Why not wait for two years?

JK: Yeah, first of all, that day, what we’re saying is that the Department of Homeland Security has to check the database that day. Actually, there are two databases, and there may be a third, all of which have to be checked that day. And they won’t issue the probationary card if the information comes back negative, if the person’s a criminal or a terrorist or a gang member, or whatever. Now there are other ways that we will also be able to check to see whether somebody might be a terrorist, besides being on one of these two or three lists. You know, you may get information about a terrorist cell, they’ve got some guy’s phone number in there, and you check it out, and sure enough, it’s Joe Blow who we gave a probationary card to. We can always go back and get Joe Blow and say you are now out of this country, because we’ve now determined that you are ineligible.

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