Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Senators Debate U.S.-Mexico Border Fence

Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - Senators writing an immigration bill argued Wednesday over whether an actual or "virtual" fence should be built along parts of the nearly 2,000-mile border between the United States and Mexico.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., has proposed a "virtual" fence, using cameras and other technology to monitor illegal traffic, as part of an immigration bill.
But Republicans were split on his proposal, which stands in contrast to one passed by the House late last year calling for 700 miles of fencing at heavily trafficked areas on the southwestern border and study of a possible fence along the Canadian border.
Sen. John Cornyn (news, bio, voting record), R-Texas, whose state shares the longest border with Mexico, said border fencing would be a "dramatically negative message" for the U.S. to send its neighbors.
"It may well cost billions of dollars to provide such a barrier or fence wall between our countries, assuming it was practically possible," Cornyn said.
Sen. Jon Kyl (news, bio, voting record), R-Ariz., also said fencing along the entire border "is not a practical solution to the challenge that faces us today." But he asked for support for a combination of fencing, cameras and barriers along parts of Arizona's border with Mexico.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (news, bio, voting record), R-Ala., urged committee members to adopt the House fencing proposal. He said a "virtual fence" is not really a barrier, "it's a detection device."
Democrats also disagreed on the issue, with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (news, bio, voting record), D-Calif., backing Specter's proposal. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (news, bio, voting record), D-Mass., called for further study on issues such as taking private land to build fences and the impact on relations with Mexico.
No votes were taken on the issue because of a lack of a quorum. The committee was scheduled to meet again Wednesday on the immigration bill.

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