WASHINGTON – Walter Jones said he's tired of the U.S.-Mexican border being unguarded.
The North Carolina Republican House member held a press conference Tuesday along with Grassfire.org Alliance,Inc.,to present 246,160 signatures on a petition demanding that his colleagues order that a border fence be built.
Grassfire.org is a nonprofit organization that puts together petitions for causes like Stop Internet Porn and Support the President. Jones and other representatives claimed crime rates are high around border areas because there's no barrier to stop crimes such as drug trafficking.
“This to me is a matter of national security,” Jones said. “I don't know how we can be so concerned about terrorists in Iraq when we've got people south of the border by the thousands and then we lose track of them. I don't know how this is not a concern to this administration or the previous administration.”
Jones introduced the Fence By Date Certain Act in January to reinstate and fully fund the original mandate of the Secure Fence Act,which required 700 miles of double-layered fencing at specific locations along the border.
The Senate dropped the language in an amendment introduced by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison,R-Texas.
Hutchison's spokesman Matt Mackowiak pointed out a posting on Hutchison's Web site from Jan. 11. The statement says the language did not gut the border fence.
Hutchison was concerned about what the Secure Fence Act would do to landowners on the Texas-Mexico border. She also had several meetings with the Customs and Border Protection,and her online statement says,”CBP has indicated the double-layer fencing is not the most effective in all cases. To stop coyotes and drug runners,CBP needs flexibility to place new fencing where new routes appear.”
Coyotes smuggle illegal immigrants into the U.S. for pay.
So Hutchison included amendments that allow Congress to work with the Department of Homeland Security to consult with state governments,local governments and American Indian tribes about the exact placement of fencing and other physical infrastructure along the southwest border of the United States. The legislation also allows DHS flexibility to use other physical infrastructure other than fencing.
Rep. Peter King,R-N.Y.,who sponsored the 2006 bill,spoke in support of the new bill,along with Reps. Brian Bilbray,R-Calif.; Ed Royce,R-Calif.; Virginia Foxx,R-N.C.; Sue Myrick,R-N.C.; Virgil Goode,R-Va.
Steve Elliot,president of Grassfire.org,said the fence is the first step to decrease crime rates and illegal immigrants crossing the border. Supporters also pointed out that the fence built in San Diego more than 12 years ago helped lower the crime rate in the area. The government built a 14-mile fence on the border between San Diego and Tijuana,Mexico. Before that fence was built,the border was marked by a single cable.
But if Jones' bill advances,it may have a tough time in the Senate. All eight senators form the four states that border Mexico voted for Hutchison's amendment.