House Republicans renew call for fence on U.S.-Mexico border

September 14, 2006|By McClatchy-Tribune

WASHINGTON -- House Republicans are renewing their push to construct nearly 700 miles of two-layer reinforced fences along the U.S.-Mexico border in the first installment in a series of border security initiatives they hope to send to President Bush in the closing weeks of Congress.

The fence proposal is identical to one that was included in an immigration enforcement bill passed by the House of Representatives in December. But with that measure sidelined in a stalemate with the Senate, House leaders plan to resurrect the $2.2 billion barrier in a single-shot bill that House members are expected to pass Thursday.

House Majority Leader John A. Boehner, an Ohio Republican, and Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter T. King, a New York Republican, said the Secure Fence Act represents the opening salvo in an end-of-session flurry of initiatives designed to stem the flow of illegal immigration along the Southwest border.

House leaders have refused to consider a more comprehensive Senate-passed bill that would create a foreign guest-worker program and put millions of illegal immigrants on a path toward permanent legal status and U.S. citizenship. Leading supporters of the Senate plan acknowledge that it appears dead for the year.

But President Bush isn't giving up on his push for an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws and wants the House and Senate to "work together to come up with comprehensive reform," White House press secretary Tony Snow said yesterday.

Asked if the White House supports the proposed fence, Snow responded, "What the administration wants is comprehensive reform."

The other House proposals will be announced Thursday, Boehner and King said, and are expected to include more Border Patrol agents and the expanded use of unmanned aerial vehicles, sensors and other high-tech hardware along the border.

House members approved the five-section fence as an amendment to its immigration bill by a vote of 260-159.

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