Penny Starr | Senior Staff Writer | Thursday, May 1, 2008
"By eliminating the double-fence requirement, the Democratic Congress is going to make it easier for drug and human smugglers to cross our Southern land border," Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), who wrote the original fencing specification in the Secure Fence Act, said when the U.S. House passed a resolution altering the language of the act, including eliminating the double-layer requirement for the fencing.
The resolution also said that "at least" 370 miles of fencing should be built, with no time table given.
Now, with a new administration coming in eight months, the future of the border fence may be linked to who wins the presidency.
"In the minds of many it should be the goal to get as many miles of fencing built before the end of the Bush administration," Hunter told Cybercast News Service . "It's difficult to predict what position the next administration is going to take on border fencing."
In January, Hunter introduced new legislation to reinstate the original Secure Fence Act, but no action has been taken.
Hunter has been critical of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and and his department, which is in charge of the project. But in recent weeks, the former presidential candidate who built a fence along the border of San Diego County that is credited with reducing the number of people and drugs coming into the country by 90 percent since its completion in 2000, has been more complimentary of Chertoff and his agency.
In recent months Chertoff took advantage of Homeland Security's authority to waive laws that impeded construction of the border fence.
"I commend Secretary Chertoff for utilizing his authority to ensure the construction of physical infrastructure along our Southern land border" and trust it "continues as necessary," Hunter said on Monday, following a field hearing of the House Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands in Brownsville, Texas addressing issues concerning Chertoff's recent actions.
Hunter is very familiar with the difficulties of building a fence along the southern border. Three miles of the 14-mile fence he helped build in San Diego have been incomplete for years because of environmental challenges. Now, fencing off the three-mile stretch is set to be complete by late May or early June.
But Hunter acknowledged that, despite the law - and the will of the American people - the southern border is a long way from being secure.
"We certainly know where the Americans stand, with the vast majority supporting a border fence," Hunter said. "But (its future) will depend entirely on how committed the next administration is to this effort."
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