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Border wall bill passes the House

By Eric Ruder | September 22, 2006 | Page 12

THE HOUSE of Representatives approved legislation in mid-September to build 700 miles of double-layer border wall. The measure passed by a wide margin, with 64 Democrats voting in favor of the Republican-sponsored measure.

The bill is identical to the border-wall portion of the Sensenbrenner bill (also known as HR 4437) that the House passed in December, sparking huge marches for immigrant rights throughout last spring.

The Senate later passed its own immigration "reform" bill that includes a corporate-backed guest-worker program and provisions for a highly restrictive "path to citizenship" for some immigrants. But House Republicans rejected these measures as too tolerant, and both versions of comprehensive legislation appear to be stalled.

So anti-immigrant politicians in the House are planning to bring individual parts of HR 4437 to a vote in an attempt to get them through the Senate and signed by George Bush before the November elections. Other proposals that could be voted on soon include the expanded use of unmanned aerial vehicles and electronic sensors at the border, and an increase in the number of Border Patrol agents.

Politicians are whipping up anti-immigrant sentiment as the fall election campaign hits full stride. R.I. Sen. Lincoln Chafee, considered one of the most moderate figures in the Republican Party, attacked his challenger for the Republican Senate nomination, Stephen Laffey, the current mayor of Cranston, R.I., for allowing city police to accept ID cards issued by the Mexican consulate as identification.

In late August, the Democratic National Committee's Hispanic Caucus asked Republicans to stop airing a Chafee ad that, it said, wrongly implies that "Mexican immigrants will carry out acts of terrorism against government buildings and airplanes."

But the Democrats aren't innocent in the backlash against immigrants. In August, following a slew of complaints, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee quietly removed an Internet ad that sandwiched images of two people trying to cross a border fence between pictures of Osama bin Laden and North Korean President Kim Jong Il. The ad asked, "Feel secure?"

Activists should be prepared for action if the Senate takes up any of these House-approved measures--and to renew pro-immigrant mobilizations to force the politicians to back down.

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