Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) today issued the following statement after passage of H.R. 6061, Secure Fence Act of 2006. The bill passed 283-138-1 with 131 Democrats voting against the measure.
“Every year, nearly one million illegal immigrants cross into America. This is a clear threat to our safety. Some of these people are coming for work, but countless others are drug dealers, gang members and some are even terrorists. That is why building this fence is common sense. And if we build the fence, it will be harder for them to come here illegally.
“It should concern the American people that 131 Democrats voted against creating this security fence along our southern border. They don’t want border security; instead they would rather jeopardize our national security and put Americans at risk.
That’s all true. But forgive me if I don’t break out the pom-poms over this. There’s no funding for the fence, which will take years to build if it ever does get funded. There are so many other immediate reforms that could have been adopted this year that would have strengthened immigration enforcement, closed deportation loopholes immediately, and provided true relief at the border. (And don’t even get me started on this administration’s renewed laxity at the front door, which has been thrown open to tens of thousands of new Saudi student visa holders while enforcement against millions of current visa overstayers remain virtually non-existent.)
The 700-mile fence vote is an election season gesture, and grass-roots conservatives who have watched the GOP squander away this issue afor six years are not going to be appeased by mid-September 2006 gesture politics.