Dems, Bush Administration prepping to renege on border fence
One of the more important features of my political stance deals with securing our borders against illegal entry, mis-identified by the media as “illegal immigration.” I’ve written about the topic on many occasions and my stance is pretty clear: illegally entering this country is 1) not immigration, it’s criminal trespass and 2) it’s not fair to those who do follow the law. Twenty years ago Congress tried the whole amnesty thing, promising to secure the border against future illegals. At the time it was 500,000 illegals. Now it’s supposed to be over 12 million. The lesson is clear: if you offer amnesty while not also securing the border, you’ll get more illegals. That’s why the border fence is a serious issue and I seriously want it built as was promised.
Tony Snow was on the Hugh Hewitt show back toward the beginning of the month and got into a tiff with Hewitt over whether the fence would get built. He got a burr up his backside over Hugh’s report that there were people expressing concern to him, now that the Dems are going to be in charge, that the fence wasn’t going to actually be built. From the transcript of that show (HH is Hugh, TS is Tony Snow):
HH: All right, now, I want to talk about immigration, as obviously, the President is a pro-regularization Republican, as I am, once the fence got passed. Now, it’s all about regularization for me. However, a lot of conservatives are worried that he’s just waiting to do the deal with Senator Reid and Speaker Pelosi, that is an amnesty deal, and that the fence will never get built. So question number one…
TS: No, the fence is going to be built. I mean, we’ve already made a committment to that.
HH: When…that’s…I wanted to bore in on that. Who’s going to be the point person on that? Because if it is not built in two years, Tony Snow, we’ll get wiped out.
TS: Well, it’s Michael Chertoff, and no…look, it’s…some of these are going to take more than two years to build when you’re talking about 700 miles of fence. I think, Hugh, when people start seeing A) fences going up, and B) guess what? We’re going to provide plenty of metrics in terms of arrests, deportations, the kinds of legal activities that are going on, because we know a lot of people are watching.
HH: Tony, I’m going to bet you right now that it will be less than a hundred miles of fencing constructed by the time…
TS: No, I think…I don’t have the charts in front of me, but they’ve laid out what is sort of their ambitions on this, and you’re going to have, certainly, more than a hundred miles.
Later in the show, we see this:
TS: Well, I’m telling you. You know what? Let me put it this way, Hugh. Then they are calling their advocates of the fence, the people who put that legislation in, they’re calling Senator Sessions a liar. And they’re calling Tom Tancredo a liar. And I don’t think they want to say that.
HH: Did you see Mickey Kaus…Yeah, but no, the legislation is passed. It is up to the executive branch to get it built, and they’re not trusting the idea that it will show up. I want to move on, though, to the…
TS: Whoa, whoa, wait. I’m not letting you leave it at that, because what you do is you part by saying you guys are a bunch of liars, but I want to leave it at that.
HH: No, I’m not.
TS: Well, I’m not going to let you leave it at that. We’re going to get the fence built.
HH: I’m not calling you a liar at all. I’m saying that the public does not believe the fence is going to happen. In fact, the doubt is…
TS: Well, wait. Let me tell you something. The public needs to know, I’m telling you right now, the fence is going to be built. But I’m also telling you if you take a look, because we did a lot of work on this, too, the public also expects the rest of the stuff to get done.
I’d be curious to know how Tony would answer Hugh given this report I noted this weekend.
The House Homeland Security Committee’s top Democrats and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Tuesday they will look at alternatives to building more fencing along the nation’s borders, putting them at odds with the top Republican on the panel.
They also agreed that they will make a major push in the next Congress for legislation giving the department authority to distribute homeland security grants based on risk assessments.
Homeland Security ranking member Bennie Thompson, D-Miss. — who will become chairman in January — and Homeland Security Emergency Preparedness Subcommittee ranking member Bill Pascrell, D-N.J. met Chertoff and Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Michael Jackson for slightly over an hour on Capitol Hill.
Speaking to reporters afterward, they described the meeting as cordial and an opportunity to establish better communications heading into the new Congress.
They said they agree on several critical homeland security issues, including flexibility to use technology rather than physical fencing along the nation’s borders. They said they would support more “virtual fencing,” using technology such as cameras, sensors and communications equipment.
Congress passed a bill at the end of September giving the department authority to build a 700-mile double-layer fence along the border with Mexico. The legislation, which President Bush signed into law, was drafted by House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King, R-N.Y., who will become the panel’s ranking member.
Thompson has said he wants to “revisit” the legislation. But after Tuesday’s meeting, he gave no indication that he plans to push to repeal the authorization in the new Congress.
Does this sound like either the Dems or the Bush administration intend to build the fence as Tony Snow insisted? I’ve got news for Mr. Snow. Hugh was exactly correct in that the public will see the administration’s backing down off of building an actual, physical fence as reneging on an agreement. If the administration follows this path, you can kiss the White House goodbye so far as the Republicans are concerned.
Further on down in the story Chertoff brings up the “virtual fence” term again. The public understood what that meant when the fence was being debated the first time and they’ll understand it again. It means some motion sensors and – maybe – a camera or two out in the middle of the desert and a vague promise that border security agents will respond when the sensor reports possible illegals crossing. Chertoff invokes “look[ing] to 21st Century technology” in his attempts to lay out the groundwork for pulling back away from the fence but that’s just a smokescreen. Hi-tech isn’t necessarily the best approach to a solution. In this case, a good, old-fashioned fence would provide a wonderful deterrent that doesn’t require power and border agents to back up.
We’ll have to see if the Republicans in Congress have learned anything by their electoral loss this year. If they don’t fight the repeal of the fence tooth and nail and don’t pursue the actual building of the already passed fence with equal vigor, we’ll be looking at a worse loss in 2008 than 2006 showed us.
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