WASHINGTON – A bill introduced Thursday that would create a 2,000-mile fence along the nation’s southern border is the latest salvo by House Republican lawmakers intent on passing enforcement-only immigration reform this year.

The measure, introduced by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., is a virtual kitchen sink of immigration proposals. It includes provisions ranging from the fence to workplace enforcement to giving local police authority to enforce immigration laws to scaling back the ability of immigrant families to be reunited.

The flurry of immigration proposals is expected to continue in the coming days.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which has primary jurisdiction over immigration policy, is expected to introduce a bill as early as Friday. His measure will focus on making it easier to deport criminal illegal immigrants and closing legal loopholes.

And Rep. John Hostetler, R-Ind., chairman of the immigration subcommittee, is expected to file a bill concentrating on border security.

Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., is likely to try and send to the floor a final measure that includes pieces from the various other bills. He plans to hold a hearing next week on how illegal immigration has impacted various parts of the country.

House leaders have promised action on an enforcement bill this year. Senate leaders have said they will take up immigration early next year. The Senate plans to combine enforcement measures with a new temporary guest worker program. It’s that approach that so far has the backing of the Bush administration.

The border fence is likely to be one of the most controversial aspects of Hunter’s bill. He estimates it would cost $2 billion although others have put the tab at $8 billion.

Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the Senate immigration subcommittee, has said he opposes such a fence.

“I think (a border fence) is futile because I don’t think you can build a wall high enough or wide enough to keep people out of the country who have no hope or opportunity where they live,” Cornyn, R-Texas, said last month.

Two Southern California lawmakers – Republican Reps. Ed Royce and Ken Calvert – have signed onto Hunter’s bill.

Royce, who chairs a House terrorism subcommittee, said the intelligence community has uncovered information that groups like al-Qaida have a strategy of sending operatives into the United States through the porous borders.

“This, post 9/11, is a situation that we can’t explain or can’t afford from a national security standpoint,” Royce told a news conference Thursday.

Calvert’s focus has been to make mandatory a voluntary program that enables employers to verify social security numbers. His idea has been included in virtually every immigration reform proposal introduced so far.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.