Updated November 19, 2005








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By James P. Tucker Jr.

Congress may be getting serious about controlling immigration and protecting the nation’s southern border with a proposal for a 2,000-mile fence in the House and a stern warning to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff from the Senate.

The fence legislation by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) estimates the cost at $2 billion. It would also strengthen workplace enforcement and give local police authority to enforce immigration laws.

Rep. John Hostetler (R-Ind.), chairman of the immigration subcommittee, and Republican leaders are attempting to cobble together several bills into one piece of legislation to be considered by the full House.

Meanwhile, a Senate committee warned Chertoff to correct inadequacies in his department. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me.), chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (DConn.), ranking minority member, suggested that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) bureaucracies should be merged to “enable them to operate more effectively.”

Homeland Security’s inspector general had recommended such a merger in a report critical of the department.

“This report presents a strong case that the status quo cannot be allowed to continue,” Miss Collins said.“[It] verifies what so many law-enforcement officials, current and former employees of the agencies and well-respected outside groups have said—that these two agencies are dysfunctional in their
current structure.

The report “exhaustively documented serious coordination problems between ICE and CBP,” Lieberman said. The “organizational difficulties have impeded the agencies’ investigations, intelligence sharing and their efforts to apprehend, detain and deport aliens.”

Miss Collins said she had “discussed the matter” with Chertoff and he should have more time to make structural changes. But, she warned, if significant changes are not made within a reasonable time frame, her committee would consider legislation merging the agencies.

(Issue #48, November 28, 2005)

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