Skip to comments.Senate OKs Border Fence, Mulls Citizenship
Posted on 05/17/2006 12:32:49 PM PDT by BenLurkin
WASHINGTON - The Senate voted to build 370 miles of triple-layered fencing along the Mexican border Wednesday and clashed over citizenship for millions of men and women who live in the United States illegally.
Amid increasingly emotional debate over election-year immigration legislation, senators voted 83-16 to add fencing and 500 miles of vehicle barriers along the southern border. It marked the first significant victory in two days for conservatives seeking to place their stamp on the contentious measure.
The prospects were less favorable for their attempt to strip out portions of the legislation that could allow citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants and create new guest worker programs.
The Senate acted in a volatile political environment, as the White House struggled for a second day to ease the concerns of House Republicans who contend that President Bush favors amnesty for illegal immigrants.
Thousands of demonstrators massed a few blocks from the Capitol demanding immigrant rights.
Construction of the barrier would send "a signal that open-border days are over. ... Good fences make good neighbors, fences don't make bad neighbors," said Sen. Jeff Sessions (news, bio, voting record), R-Ala. He said border areas where barriers already exist have experienced economic improvement and reduced crime.
"What we have here has become a symbol for the right wing in American politics," countered Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. He said if the proposal passed, "our relationship with Mexico would come down to a barrier between our two countries."
The Senate labored to complete work by next week on immigration legislation that generally follows an outline Bush set out in a nationally televised speech this week.
The measure includes provisions to strengthen border security, create a new guest worker program and crack down on the hiring of illegal immigrants.
Most controversially, it offers an eventual chance at citizenship for many of the estimated 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants already in the country. Senate Republicans staged an impromptu, occasionally emotional debate over whether that amounted to amnesty.
Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana said it did. "Surely this is a pardon from what present law says must happen," he said of provisions in the bill that require immigrants to undergo background checks, pay back taxes and take other steps before they can become citizens.
Sens. John McCain and Chuck Hagel replied heatedly it was not amnesty.
"Let's stop the nonsense," said Hagel, addressing fellow Republicans. "You all know it's not amnesty." Said McCain, addressing Vitter, "Call it a banana if you want to ... to call the process that we require under this legislation amnesty frankly distorts the debate and it's an unfair interpretation of it."
Vitter sought the last word. "Methinks thou dost protest too much."
The clash erupted after Vitter sought a change in the legislation to strip out provisions of the bill that would allow for guest worker programs and give some illegal immigrants a chance at citizenship.
Supporters of the Senate measure credited Bush's prime-time Monday night speech with giving fresh momentum to the effort to pass long-stalled legislation.
Across the Capitol in the House, the story was different. Republicans pushed through a border security bill last year, and several members of the rank-and-file have criticized Bush for his proposals. To calm their concerns, the White House dispatched Karl Rove to their weekly closed-door meeting.
Rep. Steve King (news, bio, voting record), R-Iowa, an outspoken opponent of the Senate bill, derided the effort. "I didn't see it was a persuasive event. If it was about Karl Rove seeking to convince members of Congress after debate that he's right and we're wrong it would have been better not to have the meeting," he said.
King said Rove told lawmakers Bush is sincere about enforcement. But, he added, "The president doesn't want to enforce immigration law because he's afraid he'll inconvenience someone who wants to come into the country for a better life."
Rep. Peter King (news, bio, voting record), R-N.Y., agreed that Rove did not seem to have been persuasive. "It's not the kind of issue you can compromise on; either you're giving amnesty to people who are here illegally or you aren't."
At the White House, press secretary Tony Snow defended Bush against criticism. "The president is actually taking a more aggressive role on border security than the House itself took," he said. "That is the sort of thing that is going to answer a lot of the complaints that we have heard."
The National Capital Immigration Coalition organized the afternoon demonstration on the National Mall a few blocks from where lawmakers debated the issue they cared about.
"This is a critical moment. We oppose the militarization of the U.S-Mexican border," said Juan Jose Gutierrez, one of the event's organizers.
Absolutely. And the borders should militarized.
Juan Jose, you can just kiss my little ole southern grits..
I agree it wasn't Rove who said that and it doesn't make sense when you read what Tony Snow said in the briefer. King should smarten up.
I'm beyond disgusted that someone who allow the "interpretation" of some silly House representative to make you believe that is directly what GWB said.
GWB is a man of tremendous character and class. Two traits that are sorely lacking among most men today in this Country.
That he is looking for a comprehensive and systematic reform process to this 40 year in the making problem simply shows he wants serious legislation on this issue. On the whole. He does not want to push certain aspects of this needed reform down the road. If we are going to take this issue on...lets take it on completely is what he is correctly proposing.
My personal opinion is that anybody who came here illegally as an adult, for any length of time, is forever barred from applying for citizenship. Period.
Ron, go to ---> THOMAS
You can search by Bill number, or Keyword, Rep, or Senator, etc.
Comprehensive translates into a refusal to enforce current immigration law and the desire to establish a guest worker program that would put the illegal trash already here on a path to citizenship.
It's a sellout and it's abhorrent.
If the administrations handling of the border problem is your idea of character and class I'd hate to see what you think is degenerate and tacky.
I don't agree. He is seriously addressing a 40 year in the making problem. His proposals to work harder to secure the border, reform the terribly flawed temporary workers permit program (from which a sizable segment of today's illegals come from) and to address those we are currently here illegally is exactly the right systematic process in my opinion.
But that's just my opinion..
I'm sick to death of these conservatives who say that any steps the President on border security are automatically bogus. Politics is the art of the possible and sometimes you take what you can get. And furthermore, it is a logical fallacy to say that border security and earned legalization to those already here are mutually exclusive. It is possible to walk and chew gum at the same time. Both sides of this debate make me sick. One side says only enforcement and don't realistically address the problem of people already here, the other side says that one should completely ignore the fact that illegal immigrants broke the law and that the US should not defend our borders. A pox on both your houses, I say!
Well then, you are in agreement with the great majority of Democrats. Congratulations! Meanwhile, I'm in agreement with the majority of Republicans.
""What we have here has become a symbol for the right wing in American politics," countered Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill."
While were at it let's build a fence around this jackass's house to keep him contained and doing no damage.
And it's not needed since they are combining enforcement with a "guest worker" program.
It will be little problem for illegals to go back and re-enter as legals. Their employers would even pay their expenses to do so in many cases.
I don't remember ever seeing such a crazy political debate!
we can build and defend other country's fences and borders(like south korea-complete with seismic detectors,fences,infrared,and minefields)
...but not our own borders.