No sooner did Congress authorize construction of a 700-mile fence on the U.S.-Mexico border last week than lawmakers rushed to approve separate legislation that ensures it will never be built, at least not as advertised, according to Republican lawmakers and immigration experts.
GOP leaders have singled out the fence as one of the primary accomplishments of the recently completed session. Many lawmakers plan to highlight their $1.2 billion down payment on its construction as they campaign in the weeks before the midterm elections.
But shortly before recessing late Friday, the House and Senate gave the Bush administration leeway to distribute the money to a combination of projects -- not just the physical barrier along the southern border. The funds may also be spent on roads, technology and "tactical infrastructure" to support the Department of Homeland Security's preferred option of a "virtual fence."
Most conservatives agreed that the fence bill that passed last week was a good first step toward actually securing the southern border with Mexico before starting to negotiate any disastrous amnesty program. Republicans finally appeared to be making some headway toward ameliorating the conservative base who desperately want secure borders. Then they pull this slight-of-hand and allot the money for all kinds of things and allow for a virtual fence.
The problem with a virtual fence is you get virtual security. The republicans have failed repeatedly to seriously advance a conservative agenda and they are about to experience the ire of the conservative base who would rather fight liberals in power than tolerate the disappointment of republicans who refuse to use their power to fix the country for the better. This fence is I think, the last straw. Republicans passed the fence in theory but in practice, it will probably never be built since Bush has allowed the money to be spent on all kinds of other things associated with homeland security.
I'm disappointed in both Bush and the republican controlled congress for a variety of reasons but I predict the failure to erect a fence and secure the border with Mexico will prove to have been the downfall of the republican majority in one or both houses of congress. Horrifyingly, it may also usher in the administration of one Hillary Rodham Clinton.