The Senate gave final approval last night to legislation authorizing the construction of 700 miles of double-layered fencing on the U.S.-Mexico border, shelving President Bush's vision of a comprehensive overhaul of U.S. immigration laws in favor of a vast barrier.
Under the measure, the secretary of homeland security would have 18 months to achieve "operational control" of the U.S. frontier, using unmanned aerial vehicles, ground-based sensors, satellites, radar and cameras to prevent all unlawful U.S. entries. Fortifying those requirements, Congress approved $1.2 billion in a separate homeland security spending bill to bankroll the fence.
Passage of the fence bill culminated a year of sometimes-vicious infighting among Republicans, who were divided between the get- tough approach of the House GOP and the more comprehensive vision embraced by Bush and many Senate Republicans. In December, the House approved legislation to declare illegal immigrants to be felons, build a border fence, increase penalties for employers who hire undocumented workers, expedite the detention and removal of illegal immigrants, and create a vast database of lawful Social Security numbers and other indicators for employers to use to check the legality of their workers.
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