Immigration Bill Has a Hole in It

The immigration reform bill just voted out of the House Judiciary Committee and now headed for a full House vote in the next few days has a hole in it — a hole about 2,000 miles wide.

That’s because it does not address the address the critical need for a secure physical barrier — a fence — as an essential element of serious border security reform. Unless the bill is amended to add a fence provision before final consideration, it will fail to achieve its stated objective.

Other matters can be addressed in the New Year, such as how to avoid de facto amnesty in any temporary worker plan, but the fence must be a key component in any bill that claims to address border security.

Just as the President has correctly stated that we cannot have national security without border security, so we cannot have border security without a secure physical barrier.

There has been much well-meaning but naive talk in the Congress lately about the promise of technologies such as perimeter lasers and cameras mounted on unmanned aerial vehicles or satellites. These technologies are touted as capable of creating a “virtual fence,” a term which many find appealing. That’s nonsense. They are nothing more than tools of surveillance, not prevention. They use technology to develop new ways of watching people cross the border illegally. Instead, we should use technology to develop news ways of stopping people from crossing the border illegally.

Furthermore, high-tech surveillance still requires large numbers of Border Patrol agents for apprehension. By contrast, technology-enhanced physical barriers, such as we have proposed at, can be effective with far fewer agents. That’s not to say that there is there is no technology that could not stop people from crossing without a physical barrier, but there are none that could accomplish it humanely. No serious legislator would support a system that causes physical harm or death.

The illegal immigration issue is immensely complex, consisting of at least four dimensions: economic, drugs and crime, public health, and national security. There are specific, targeted strategies for each of these dimensions that are part of any comprehensive solution to the overall problem, but a fence is the only solution that addresses all four dimensions. For these and a host of other reasons, a physical barrier is absolutely essential.

At, we have focused in particular on the national security dimension, because our research has shown that it is the aspect of the issue that is least understood by the average American. For example, few Americans know that in the 2004 fiscal year, 649 persons originating from so-called “special interest” countries like Iran, Syria and Sudan that either sponsor or harbor terrorists were caught trying to enter the United States across our southern border. How many potential terrorists were not caught, and successfully entered our country? Is it not plausible that at least some of these might be the operatives of organized international terrorist groups such as al Qaeda?

The bill passed by the House Judiciary Committee, with the commendable leadership of Chairman James Sensenbrenner, can be improved before adoption, but only if action is taken immediately.

Readers of HUMAN EVENTS should sign our website petition to Congress at or call or fax their Congressional representatives and encourage them to support a fence amendment to the immigration bill before it is presented to the House for final passage. Legislators will only support an amendment if they are confident that it is supported by a significant number of their constituents, so these petitions, calls or faxes must be sent immediately.

Even if the amendment only calls for a security fence along certain portions of the 2,000 mile long border, with the gaps to be filled in later, it is vital that a fence provision of some sort be added to the immigration bill. Grassroots action in the next few days can make a difference.