Senate Adopts Border Fence, E-Verify Measures on DHS Spending Bill
By Douglas Rivlin, NEWS JUNKIE POST Immigration Expert
The Senate debated a bill today to fund the Department of Homeland Security and the leading opponents of immigration reform (and immigration) in the Senate used the opportunity to force votes on several immigration-related measures.
The Senate adopted an amendment (sponsored by Sen. Jeff Sessions) that would extend the use of a flawed federal database to check the work eligibility of employees called E-Verify. Senators also voted for an amendment (sponsored by Sen. Jim DeMint) to extend the border fence between the U.S. and Mexico. These measures to look ‘tough on immigrants’ for the C-SPAN cameras will probably do damage to the economy, environment, and well-being of the country when we want our Senators to be doing all they can to help in these tough economic times.
As the National Immigration Forum said in a statement today:
A border ‘fence to nowhere’ is not a serious response to an immigration system two decades out of date and in need of top-to-bottom reform. It is a sideshow to the legitimate immigration reform debate, employing a fifth century approach to a 21st century immigration and border security reality.
A huge expansion of the E-Verify program is sure to put more American citizens out of work. Since the database is so flawed and correcting data so difficult, it will no doubt hurt the economy while doing next to nothing to prevent the employment of immigrants here illegally.
The fence, famed of song, story, ladders and tunnels, was first mandated by Congress as part of a wave of anti-immigration measures enacted when the Republicans controlled the Congress and White House. Controversy has arisen because the law mandating the fence allows the Secretary of Homeland Security to override any and all laws and treaties related to environmental impact (and anything else) to get it built – unprecedented, unchecked powers that have sparked law suits and federal land grabs from private citizens.
As the Los Angeles Times reports today, the damage to the border environment is already being done:
Walls built along the U.S.-Mexico border don’t just keep human families apart.
Biologists say the barriers also threaten such wildlife species as bighorn sheep and pygmy owls, isolating populations and narrowing the gene pool. Pygmy owls, who sometimes fly low to the ground, may find their flight patterns disrupted by high fences or walls.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, the fence costs approximately $3 million per mile. More hastily constructed, destructive, and expensive barriers are not the solution we need.
Only comprehensive reform of our immigration system will actually work to reduce unauthorized immigration, reestablish legal immigration channels, and get immigrants already here illegally into the system. In the mean time, symbolic, expensive, and damaging measures like the fence and E-Verify are time and money well wasted by Congress.
The votes are there for immigration reform when it is crafted and debated and these preliminary skirmishes probably don’t mean much except that some Senators still confuse looking tough with fixing the problem. With the debate on comprehensive immigration reform sure to start in a matter of months, the Senate should resist the temptation to pass piece-meal, look-tough measures likely to backfire.
More votes – including more votes related to immigration – are likely tonight and tomorrow.