A deal had been made to un-do the Secure Fence Act even before the vote to approve it was taken. This scenario was staged to create the impression that Congress was clamping down on illegal immigration. Congress was approaching the 2006 elections and knew the public wanted secure borders so they passed the Secure Fence Act with no intention of actually closing the border; they were just playing election-year political games.
The plain language of the Secure Fence Act states that "the Secretary of Homeland Security shall provide for [at] least 2 layers of reinforced fencing, the installation of additional physical barriers, roads, lighting, cameras, and sensors" along a specified range of the U.S.-Mexico border. The Act then stipulated the precise regions of the border, covering a total of 854 miles, to be fenced. (Note: the border is actually over 1,400 miles long.)
But the very same day that the Senate passed the Secure Fence Act, Senate leaders had already hatched a plan to void the essential requirement of the Act. Congress passed another law immediately after passing the Secure Fence Act giving the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) discretion over how and where the fence would actually be built. The same day, after the Secure Fence Act was passed, it was undone.
Here is the sequence of events surrounding the passage of the Secure Fence Act and the subsequent appropriations bill that undermined the Act (from internet news sites):
“9/29/06, prior to vote -- Senator Bill Frist sends strongly worded letter to House and Senate leaders setting out the plan to pass subsequent legislation gutting the Secure Fence
9/29/06, (on the same day) -- Secure Fence Act passes
9/29/06 late evening – Senator Hutchison makes comments from the floor asking for discretion on implementation of Secure Fence Act; submits Frist letter into record
9/29/06 1-2 hour later – Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill passed with discretionary funding for border security not specifically tied to Secure Fence Act”
The funding bill passed by Congress required that the Department of Homeland Security (‘DHS’) was to issue a report to Congress as to how the money was to be spent prior to most of the funds being release. However, the DHS report submitted makes it clear that neither Congress nor the Administration really ever intended to adhere to the Secure Fence Act. For example, the DHS report in December 2006 questioned whether the border fence was necessary, and the report made no reference to the goals of the Secure Fence Act.
Instead of complying with the Secure Fence Act passed by Congress, DHS arbitrarily decided there should be only 570 miles of barriers, of which 370 miles would be pedestrian fencing (not double layer). There would be no 854 miles of double-layer fencing (as the Secure Fence Act required), there would be instead 370 miles of "pedestrian" fencing (i.e. not double-layer fencing) and only 554 miles of any kind of fencing, but in reality there wasn’t even 570 miles of fencing intended to be built.
Two amendments (SA 2466 and SA 2466 to HR 2638) introduced by Senator Hutchinson in the subsequent appropriation bill first seems to support building a fence (Section A) but does not (Section D). The first amendment states:
"(A) REINFORCED FENCING.--In carrying out subsection (a), the Secretary of Homeland Security shall construct reinforced fencing along not less than 700 miles of the southwest border where fencing would be most practical and effective and provide for the installation of additional physical barriers, roads, lighting, cameras, and sensors to gain operational control of the southwest border."
Note the phrase "where fencing would be most practical and effective." Basically, DHS has the discretion to build a fence any place it chooses (unlike the specific requirements of the Security Fence Act), or none at all. The second Hutchison amendment makes this even clearer: it states:
"(D) LIMITATION ON REQUIREMENTS.--Notwithstanding subparagraph (A), nothing in this paragraph shall require the Secretary of Homeland Security to install fencing, physical barriers, roads, lighting, cameras, and sensors in a particular location along an international border of the United States, if the Secretary determines that the use or placement of such resources is not the most appropriate means to achieve and maintain operational control over the international border at such location"
On December 20, 2007, Congress passed the “Consolidated Omnibus Appropriation Bill’ with the two Hutchinson amendments that emasculate the Secure Fence Act.
Thanks to several internet news sources and a few columnists, the true actions by Congress were exposed. For that we have to thank: TownHall.com, WorldNet Daily, Front Page Magazine, Michelle Malkin, Grassfire, and several others.
I too am trying to do my part so people will know Congress and the president do not really want to close our border; the more voters that know this, the better.