A 3 1/2-mile gap remains in a security fence on the U.S.-Mexico border near San Diego. The Washington Post says that with allegations by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that al Qaeda operatives are looking to the border as a way to infiltrate the U.S., federal officials have hastened efforts to close off the final stretch in a canyon known as “Smuggler’s Gulch.” They contend that the area is a national security risk. Environmentalists say the project, which they have battled for years, will devastate protected marshland and endanger rare plants and animals.
The House recently approved immigration legislation that includes provisions to complete the fencing — and gives Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff almost total authority to sidestep environmental and labor laws in the process. “Maybe this was acceptable in the pre-9/11 days that we would have allowed this to be tied up in knots for years. But in the era of global terrorism, we just can’t wait around forever to get these things done,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Robert C. Bonner said. “It’s an absolute need.”