(CNSNews.com) - The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has built only 32 miles of double-layer fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border out of the 700 miles originally mandated by a 2006 act of Congress, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
One reason DHS has been able to do this is an amendment that Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R.-Texas) slipped into an omnibus appropriations bill that Congress passed on December 18, 2007. Hutchison’s amendment put a loophole in the fence law that allowed the secretary of Homeland Security not to build the fence Congress had mandated the year before.
The Secure Fence Act of 2006 specifically ordered DHS to build two layers of reinforced fencing along 700 specific miles of the nearly 2,000 mile U.S.-Mexico border.
“The Secretary of Homeland Security shall provide for at least 2 layers of reinforced fencing, the installation of additional physical barriers, roads, lighting, cameras, and sensors” along 700 miles of designated border areas, the Secure Fence Act said.
Hutchison’s 2007 amendment neutered this language. It said: “Limitation on Requirements.--Notwithstanding subparagraph (A), nothing in this paragraph shall require the Secretary of Homeland Security to install fencing, physical barriers, roads, lighting, cameras, and sensors in a particular location along an international border of the United States, if the Secretary determines that the use or placement of such resources is not the most appropriate means to achieve and maintain operational control over the international border at such location.”
According to a new report by the GAO, as of October 31, only 32 miles of the double-layer fencing envisioned by Congress in the original law had been built. Additionally, a GAO official told CNSNews.com he was not aware of plans to build any additional double-layer fencing.
DHS has been building three different types of fences along the border. These include:1) single-layer fences designed to stop both pedestrians and vehicles, which the GAO refers as “primary” fencing, 2) double-layer fencing designed to stop both pedestrians and vehicles, which the GAO refers to as “secondary” fencing, and 3) barriers designed to stop vehicles, but not pedestrians, which the GAO refers to as “vehicle” fencing.
The single-layer fencing, or primary fencing, consists of one eight- to ten-foot fence. Double-layer fencing, or secondary fencing, consists of a parallel pair of eight-to-ten-foot fences and is equipped with sensors and cameras. A patrol road runs between the two fences.
“The double-border fence is what works,” Rep. Duncan Hunter (R.-Calif.) told CNSNews.com. “As long as you have Border Patrol watching that, no one is going to get over it.”
Vehicle fencing consists of small posts of about three feet in height that may stop cars and trucks, but, according to Hunter, deters little else.
“Those don’t stop people coming in,” said Hunter. “They probably wouldn’t stop motorcycles. They wouldn’t stop ATVs or anything else.”
“[I]t is less expensive to construct vehicle fencing than pedestrian fencing,” says the GAO report says.
“As of October 31, 2008, CBP reported that approximately 32 miles of secondary fence existed along the southwest border,” the report said.