Thursday, May 18, 2006

Senate Endorses Border Fence

The U.S. Senate endorsed a plan to build a roughly 370 miles of triple-layered fencing along the border with Mexico as a proposed immigration reform bill moves forward. By a 83-16 votes, senators also approved a proposal to build some 800 km of vehicle barriers along the border as part of the plan. Although it was seen as a significant victory for conservative Republicans who call for deportation of all the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the country, it is unlikely that they can stop the passage of the overall immigration reform bill. The bill authorizes additional spending on border security, a guest worker program, an eventual opportunity at citizenship for most of the 12 million illegal immigrants in the country, and tougher enforcement of laws prohibiting hiring of illegal workers.Backers of the bill on Tuesday defeated two amendments that would have gutted the Senate bill. President George W. Bush, who supports the bill in principal, gave the debate momentum on Monday by announcing the deployment of 6,000 National Guard troops to southwestern border states to support the Border Patrol. Senate passage of the bill appears likely by the end of the month. Opponents of the bill are planning other amendments but said the big fight will occur when negotiators try to merge the Senate bill with the House's version which will make all illegal immigrants criminals.