After Congress authorized construction of a 700-mile fence on the U.S.-Mexico border last week, lawmakers approved separate legislation that ensures it will never be built, the Washington Post reports. GOP leaders have singled out the fence as one of the primary accomplishments of the this year’s session. Shortly before recessing last Friday, Congress gave the Bush administration leeway to distribute $1.2 billion to a combination of projects — not just the physical barrier along the southern border. The funds may be spent on roads, technology and “tactical infrastructure” to support the Department of Homeland Security’s preferred “virtual fence.”
GOP leaders pledged in writing that Native American tribes, members of Congress, governors, and local leaders would get a say in “the exact placement” of any structure, and that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff would have the flexibility to use alternatives “when fencing is ineffective or impractical.” The loopholes leave the Bush administration with authority to decide where, when, and how long a fence will be built. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), who chairs the Senate subcommittee that funds the Department of Homeland Security, said, “I think there’ll be fencing where the department feels that it makes sense.” He estimated that “at least 300 to 400 miles” will be built.