It’s much tougher than it should be to secure America’s borders. While the technology and manpower are all within reach, what seems beyond our grasp is the ability to act. Take last year’s legislation calling for construction of 854 miles of fence on our Southern border.
It’s all too obvious that America is under threat because its land borders are largely porous and unprotected. In response last year Congress passed, and the President signed into law, legislation calling for the construction of those 854 miles of border fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border. Despite this legislative mandate by the U.S. Congress, the Department of Homeland Security recently announced its intention to build only 370 miles of fencing along the border, not the 854 miles required by the legislation.
This directive, despite its clarity, appears to have been interpreted as a suggestion. It is not: it’s the law -- and the border fence must be built.
The Secure Fence Act requires that reinforced fencing and related infrastructure be installed along the most dangerous and problematic smuggling corridors along our Southern land border, which continue providing illegal immigrants, drug smugglers and potential terrorist access into the United States. As the original author of the measure’s fencing provision, I expected there to be some opposition to implementing strategic fencing along our land border with Mexico. I did not, however, expect one of the biggest obstacles to be the federal agency primarily responsible for protecting the American homeland, especially when border fencing has proven to be an effective enforcement tool with verifiable results.
In San Diego County, for example, border fencing remains a critical part of our continuing effort to address the problems commonly associated with illegal immigration. Since construction of the San Diego Border Fence began in 1996, the smuggling of people and narcotics has dropped drastically, crime rates have been reduced by half according to FBI statistics, vehicle drug drive-throughs have been eliminated and apprehensions have decreased as the result of fewer crossing attempts.
The Clinton Administration opposed the construction of the San Diego Border Fence as a method of closing the prolific smuggling corridor that once existed between San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico. The Clinton Administration, however, also recognized its responsibility under the law. Construction of the San Diego Border Fence began and conditions on both sides of the border immediately improved.
The Bush Administration says it remains committed to securing the border. I intend to hold them to their word. Just as I did with the Clinton Administration, I will continue reminding the Bush Administration of their obligation under the law to build the border fence. I believe they can, and will, do better.
Bureaucracy is rarely ever capable of producing immediate results. But when it threatens the safety and security of our communities, it becomes intolerable. The decision not to build fencing as dictated by law can only serve to demonstrate that we are not serious about securing our borders and enforcing our nation’s immigration laws.
Why is reinforced border infrastructure necessary? In 2005, 155,000 foreign nationals from countries other than Mexico were apprehended attempting to cross our land border with Mexico. Alarmingly, many of these individuals originated from countries of national security concern, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon and Yemen, and likely represent only a fraction of those who successfully entered our country without the knowledge of border security officials or the consent of our government.
It has also been reported that several of the individuals who were discovered to be plotting the next major terrorist attack against the United States, targeting soldiers at Fort Dix, crossed the U.S.-Mexico border through Brownsville, Texas. Whether they entered as children or adults, the fact that they originated from countries far from our shores demonstrates that across the world, it is understood that the best way to illegally enter the United States is through our land border with Mexico.
To date, only 12 miles of the 854 miles of border fencing called for in the Secure Fence Act have been constructed. While it’s a start, the 370 miles of fencing promised by DHS represents a significant departure from what’s required by federal law. Let’s be perfectly clear: it’s not enough. Even the 854 miles of fence legislated last year is only a beginning. Legislation presently under consideration by the U.S. Senate to reform our immigration system also reaffirms DHS’ decision to only build 370 miles of fencing. This legislation is weak on enforcement, comprehensively fails to make border security a priority and wrongly retreats from the mandates of the Secure Fence Act.
We know from our experiences in San Diego that border fencing works and when extended across Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, it will have the same salutary affect. DHS has more than $1 billion cash on hand for border fence construction and more will surely be delivered. It’s time we get serious about border control, do what’s right, and build the border fence. Secure borders make America safer. What’s so hard to understand about that?
NOTE: Hunter was on Larry King fighting the open border lobby last night for YOU! [snips]
In Spartansburg, South Carolina is Congressman Duncan Hunter, candidate for the GOP presidential nomination.
KING: Congressman Hunter, what do you think?
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, OPPOSES BILL: Well, I think, Larry, that this -- this Senate bill cuts down the border fence, cuts it in half. That's the fence that I legislated through last October. And since 9/11, enforcement on the border is now primarily a national security issue. Americans have to know two things -- who's coming into the country and what are they bringing with them.
And by cutting this thing down to 370 miles -- which is what the Senate bill does, you leave the smugglers routes of New Mexico and Texas totally exposed. That means you're going to have continued people moving people and narcotics through those smugglers' routes. That's going to be bad for this country.
So let's -- let's follow up on the law that's already been passed, that was signed by the president in October, and that is to build -- extend the San Diego border fence -- which, incidentally, saved lots of lives -- saved the lives of the people who were being preyed on by the border gangs in San Diego. We cut the crime rate by 50 percent by building that fence.
This bill that extends it 854 miles across Arizona, New Mexico and Texas needs to be implemented.
KING: Congressman Hunter, isn't forgiveness one of the concepts of America?
You're not going to -- you're not going to deport 12 million people, are you?
HUNTER: Well, let me tell you, Larry, the other concept is security...
HUNTER: ... and there is absolutely nothing that has been -- has been laid down by the people that support this idea of amnesty. And it is an amnesty because the only thing people care about is can I stay?
And they can stay the instant they walk in and sign up. That nobody has been able to explain to me the difference between now and 1986, when we gave amnesty and we wrote in the fine print, now this is it, nobody else is allowed to come in illegally. People didn't even slow down. In fact, they rushed the borders. That's why there's 12 million people here now. Now, if we pass this, why won't there be another 12 million people coming in to catch what they consider to be the third amnesty? The answer is there won't be any difference because they will think that we've devalued our own laws by basically giving a second amnesty. So this is an amnesty and it's going to bring on what I think will be a real stampede for America's borders for the third amnesty.
HUNTER: You know, I'm reminded that this is a security issue. It's a security issue because we have to know who it is coming in. It's been pointed out that there's 250,000 criminal aliens. That is people who came across the border to hurt Americans and presently in our federal, state and local penitentiaries and jails. Unless you have sides on the house, it doesn't make any difference how you adjust the front door, if you don't know who's coming through those sides on the house. And the same -- the same smugglers who will take $10,000 to smuggle cocaine across the border or smuggle people who are coming in illegally across the border, someday will take $10,000 to smuggle terrorists across the border.
That's why you have to have a secure border. That's why we need sides on the house. And if people want to come in, they're going to have to knock on the front door, Larry. It's going to have to be that way since 9/11.
HUNTER: ... in 2005, a hundred and -- in 2005, 155,000 people came across the border from Mexico who were not citizens of Mexico. They came from virtually every country in the world. Unless you have an enforceable border, you will have no way of telling who's coming across this 2,000 -- this vast 2,000 mile border between the United States and Mexico. Everybody in the world watches their television sets...
KING: The fault is with ourselves as some will say.
Congressman Hunter, you want to respond to Enrique's charge that you're responsible for some of the deaths?
HUNTER: Yes. Larry, first, there's one guy who's put out 10 times as much water as Mr. Morones has for people who have been dying in the desert. That's my brother, John Hunter, who does it every day every week and has done it for years, doesn't seek publicity like Mr. Morones, but he's put out a lot more water.
And secondly, when we built the border fence, you had armed gangs that robbed, raped and murdered illegal aliens so badly that Joseph Wambaugh wrote his best-selling book about the area between San Diego and Tijuana, that no man's land that they called Lines and Shadows. Those were gangs with automatic weapons. They average 10 murders a year on the border.
When I built the double border fence along the border between Tijuana and San Diego, we took those gangs out; we took the murders down from 10 a year to zero. I never got a thank you from Mr. Morones.
HUNTER: And Larry, let me finish my position on that. If the government would build the fence that I put into the law across Arizona and put interlocking cameras up, I timed that so they would be up before the next hot season so those 200 people would not die in the Arizona desert this year. This administration has failed to do that. The deadline was May 31, which is just a couple of weeks!
HUNTER: If you had 200 young high school students dying because they were getting into a canal and drowning, the first thing you'd do is fence the canal. If we fence the Arizona desert with a double fence and we have those interlocking cameras, you keep the coyotes from pushing those innocent people out across the line, telling them that the road is only two miles to the north. In some cases, it's 20 miles to the north. And in July heat, 110 degree heat, at 10:00 in the morning, they start to fall off.
HUNTER: Well, first, to the first point that was made by that call, Larry, I actually held a hearing on the Canadian border in Michigan last August with the Armed Services Committee and we asked our agencies what they needed in terms of increased law enforcement. They said it's not like it is on the Mexican border right now but if we have an enforcement on the Mexican border with the fence, we may well need better arrangements, including barriers, on the Canadian border if we have to in this post 9/11 world, then we have to do it. So the point is you have to have security. And nobody here has explained how you separate, when criminals are coming in along with the good people and people coming in from virtually every country in the world, how you tell who's coming in and what they're bringing in with them unless you have a real border.
KING: What if you let no one in and then you're secure but you're alone? HUNTER: Well, that's right, Larry. What that means is that you've got to come in through the front door. You've got to knock on the front door. You've got to give your credentials. That gives our law enforcement agencies an ability to analyze who's coming into the country. And every country post 9/11 has that right.
HUNTER: I think it tells me that they don't understand that border enforcement right now, this vast 2,000 mile border that's unsecured, is probably our most pressing problem with respect to homeland security. I think securing the border is more important than a thousand new shiny fire trucks for New York City or a new communication system for our police.
This is important because this is where people -- you know the 155,000 people that came from all countries in the world, Larry, to transit across Mexico, those people came because they know that that is the opening. You can't come through the airports anymore. You come across a land border between Mexico and the U.S. At some point, we're going to have people come across. They're going to put $10,000 in the hands of that smuggler who was moving cocaine and those people are going to be terrorists. This is a national security problem. You have to know who's coming into this country and you can't do that unless you have a secure border.
HUNTER: Well, I just say this: when the swift plants were raided in Iowa a couple of months ago, and I was up there, Larry, and about 800 folks were taken out working there illegally, the next day, I'm told, lots of native Iowans showed up to get their jobs back. So there are lots of jobs in this country, in fact, that have been taken by folks who are here illegally. I think that's very clear. I think the absolute statement that they're taking only jobs Americans don't want is not accurate. It's been proven.--