Congressman Proposes Fencing U.S.-Mexico Border

11-3-05 - A House Republican wants to build a fence along the entire 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border, a plan that could cost billions of dollars and one that critics say would do little to stop illegal immigration.

California Rep. Duncan Hunter, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, plans to introduce legislation that would create a two-layer reinforced fence with lighting and sensors from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, a 100-yard border zone to the north of the barriers and 25 new ports of entry.

Currently, most of the westernmost 14-mile stretch of the border is lined with parallel fencing. There is secure fencing at other vulnerable points, but long stretches of the border are protected only by patchy barbed wire or nothing at all.

"Illegal aliens continue to funnel directly into many of our local communities and adversely impact our way of life by overwhelming our schools, inundating our health care system and, most concerning, threatening our safety," said Hunter, who was working on the bill with Rep. Virgil Goode, R-Va.

He said building a fence and enforcing immigration laws could reverse the trends.

A conservative group called Let Freedom Ring that is promoting a border fence estimates it would cost about $8 billion.

Republican Gov. Bill Owens of Colorado recently announced his support for the project, but Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, has said he does not think a fence would stop illegal immigration.

Groups including National Council of La Raza, the largest U.S.-based Hispanic advocacy group, oppose a fence.

"It doesn't really deal with why people are migrating or why our economy is so dependent on their labor," said Cecilia Munoz, the group's vice president of policy. "The resourcefulness of people on both sides of the border is likely to be greater than a fence."