Even with passage of a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the House last week, the issue continues to sit at the top of conservatives’ list of concerns. After all, with the Senate to debate the issue in February, it’s far from certain what type of bill will land on the President’s desk.
Embedded in the legislation agreed to last Friday on a 239-182 vote is language to construct a physical barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border. It was significant victory for conservatives who have pushing the idea for more than a dozen years.
Colin Hanna, president of Let Freedom Ring, a non-profit organization that promotes constitutional government, economic freedom and traditional values, told HUMAN EVENTS that a fence is needed to safely secure the U.S.-Mexico border and effectively halt illegal immigration.
“We thought there was one aspect of [the immigration issue] that was being ignored by virtually everybody — and that is the need for a secure, physical barrier between the U.S. and Mexico along the entire 2,000 miles,” he said.
With Let Freedom Ring’s latest project, WeNeedAFence.com, the grassroots organization takes an aggressive stance on the immigration issues plaguing the Southern U.S. border — a stance that Hanna says Americans increasingly approve of.
Hanna can also take credit, at least partly, for the inclusion in the House build of language to build a fence. He secured the support of powerful Armed Services Chairman Duncan Hunter (R.-Calif.), who offered an amendment to build a fence, which passed comfortably on a vote of 260 to 159.
Hanna said support for building a fence among Americans is generally popular. A recent CNN poll conducted online showed 87% of Americans approve of the idea of building a security fence to stop the flow of illegal immigration,.
Hanna’s organization proposes that a heavy-duty, 2,000-foot-long fence be built from San Diego, to Brownsville, Texas. The fence would actually consist of two parallel sturdy wire fences lined with coiled barbed wire, alarmed with sensors and monitored by close-circuit TV cameras and motion detectors. Enough space would be left between the two walls for a patrol road and a ditch would border the outside edge of both sides of the barrier making the total width between 40 to 50 yards.
The fence, which will provide up to 200 points of entry for trade and traveling purposes, is estimated to cost $2 million to $4 million per mile, or a total of $4 billion to $8 billion. The relatively high cost could make conservatives cringe, acknowledged Hanna, but it is actually a small portion of the current Homeland Security Budget. (The Department of Homeland Security’s Discretionary Budget Authority for 2005 was $33.8 billion and is set to increase to $41.1 billion in 2006, according to the DHS website.)
The WeNeedAFence.com movement is not anti-Mexican or even anti-immigration, Hanna said.
“We consider ourselves pro-immigration, but pro-legal immigration,” he said.
Hanna started to see his work pay off on November 3, when Hunter and Rep. Virgil Goode (R.-Va.) introduced legislation in the House to build a fence. Known as the TRUE Enforcement and Border Security Act, it was the only immigration measure to require a physical barrier to be constructed along the entire U.S.-Mexico border — and it eventually became the basis for Hunter’s amendment to the comprehensive immigration bill.
“Unfortunately, illegal aliens continue to funnel directly into many of our local communities and adversely impact our way of life by overwhelming our schools, inundating our healthcare system and, most concerning, threatening our safety,” Hunter said. “Through better enforcement of our immigration laws and construction of the necessary border infrastructure, we can reverse the trends induced by illegal immigration, while also promoting a homeland that is safer and more secure.”
National security is the No. 1 concern of WeNeedAFence.com, Hanna said.
“The average American has no idea that in addition to the hundreds of thousands of people escaping poverty and seeking opportunity, there are hundreds who are from terrorism-sponsoring and terrorism harboring countries,” he said.