Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas showed an uncharacteristic display of frustration with party colleagues on Friday when she sharply criticized two Republican congressmen who had accused her of a stealth effort to derail a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The Houston Chronicle reports that “conservative blogs and pundits have attacked Hutchison ever since Reps. Peter King of New York and Duncan Hunter of California accused the Texas Republican of essentially repealing Congress’ mandate to build 700 miles of fencing.”
Hutchison had been labeled a ‘Pander to the Criminal Invader’ and called a traitor to border security. But, the senator claims that the two congressmen “have been a little loose with the facts.”
Rep. King and Rep. Hunter have expressed surprise about the Hutchison amendment to the legislation requiring the border fence. Hutchison claims she notified both of them that she intended to amend the law ordering 700 miles of double-layer fencing as far back as September 2006.
Her amendment repealed parts of the 2006 law that dictated both the fence’s location and design – to the disappointment of King and Hunter, who advocate the construction of double-layer fencing to halt illegal crossings.
See article in Houston Chronicle:
Hutchison on defensive over border fence amendment
By MICHELLE MITTELSTADT - Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle Washington Bureau - Jan. 12, 2008
WASHINGTON — In an uncharacteristic display of public frustration with party colleagues, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison on Friday sharply criticized two Republican congressmen who had accused her of a stealth effort to derail the fence along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Conservative blogs and pundits have attacked Hutchison ever since Reps. Peter King of New York and Duncan Hunter of California accused the Texas Republican of essentially repealing Congress' mandate to build 700 miles of fencing.
"This was a midnight massacre," King said of an amendment Hutchison shepherded into law last month. "It was absolutely disgraceful."
After being labeled "Panderer to the Criminal Invader" and called a traitor to border security, Hutchison fought back Friday.
"There is misinformation, and I think the congressmen who should know better exactly what has happened have been a little loose with the facts," she said in an interview.
"I am a little frustrated that Rep. King and I guess Rep. Hunter are feigning surprise," Hutchison said, noting that both men were notified as far back as September 2006 that she intended to amend the law ordering 700 miles of double-layer fencing.
The controversy is over an amendment that Hutchison inserted into a $555 billion spending bill that President Bush signed into law the day after Christmas.
The measure repealed the parts of the 2006 law that dictated both the fence's location and design — to the dismay of King and Hunter, who advocate the use of double-layer fencing to halt illegal crossings.
The Department of Homeland Security essentially had been ignoring the order to build double-layered fencing anyway, with only a handful of the 166 miles constructed to date comprising a fence, a patrol road in between and a second fence.
Hutchison, who insists her measure in no way jeopardizes the fence construction due to get under way in Texas in the spring, noted that similar language passed the Senate on three separate occasions last year.
What the new law does, Hutchison said, is require that the government consult with landowners and local elected officials, many of whom have felt bulldozed and ignored by the federal government as it moves ahead with its plan to build 130 miles of fencing in Texas.
"I feel like this has been a little blown out of proportion," Hutchison said.
'Full steam ahead'
The Department of Homeland Security echoed Hutchison's view that her language does not put the fence in jeopardy. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff's pledge to build 370 miles by year's end is "full steam ahead," said spokeswoman Laura Keehner.
But a prominent fence critic and a coalition of Texas border officials critical of the fence argued that her measure should force Homeland Security back to the drawing board and breathed new vigor into the anti-fence revolt along the Rio Grande.
"We plan to see the Department of Homeland Security in court," said Peter Schey, executive director of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, which may represent some Texas landowners who object to fencing on their property. ''Building the fence is back to square one."
The Texas Border Coalition cited the Hutchison measure in calling on Chertoff to retract the plans that suggest where the Texas fence will be built "to assure that the consultation is authentic."
Though the new law, which provided $1.2 billion to build the fence, directs Homeland Security officials to consult with affected local residents, it does not decree what constitutes appropriate consultation.
Homeland Security officials, who insist they have been consulting closely with border residents, reject the stance that the new law changes anything.
Hutchison herself appears to view the Homeland Security outreach effort, which included 18 town hall meetings and a dozen community briefings, as sufficient. "As far as I can tell, it's working fine," she said. "It doesn't mean they are going to do exactly what the local people request, but they have some ability to work it out."
Border policymakers offered mixed assessments of the consultation to date.
Mayor feels betrayed
Eagle Pass Mayor Chad Foster, chairman of the Texas Border Coalition, was frustrated Thursday by new word that the government intends to build nearly one mile of fencing in his city.
Foster and the City Council thought they had fended off the fence last year in a deal with Homeland Security to cut down Carrizo cane along the river and add lighting and decorative fencing to a swath of land between two ports of entry.
"We get to an agreement in January, and a year later that doesn't count," Foster said.
But Del Rio Mayor Efrain Valdez was more complimentary of the department's outreach. "They have been listening to us," he said.
Hutchison, caught between a national demand for border security and Texas constituents fearful that the fence will destroy their way of life, said she is trying to steer a careful course that achieves both objectives.
"It's a difficult issue," she said.
COMMENT by FAITH CHATHAM - DFWRCC - Jan. 15, 2008
Since the esteemed Congressmen from New York and California are so concerned about securing our borders from invaders from foreign lands, before they mandate fencing along the cities and towns and ranches of southern Texas, they should propose double fencing along the California coastline and the Atlantic coast. When you plug up one hole in a container, the contents pours out other holes. If they truly could create an effective fence along the southern border of the United States, they'd need to fence in our coastlines to prevent "illegal immigrants" from becoming boat people or long distance swimmers entering on our nation's beaches.
A fence on the border will not solve immigration problems. It will be wasteful, ineffective spending. The Congressmen from New York and California are posturing and pandering to segments of their own voters.
OTHER COMMENTS on THE DALLAS BLOG:
written by lee , January 14, 2008
The fence is a nutty idea and more power to Kay for doing whatever it takes to prevent it from being built. It is a waste of money that will not work.
written by tom madrzykowski , January 14, 2008
Build a 13 foot fence and sure enough someone will have a 14 ladder.
written by HSH , January 14, 2008
I spent four days last fall on one of the largest ranches in South Texas which shares the border which Mexico. It has its own security operation, as do most if not all ranches in the Valley. They never let the Border Patrol on their property without someone from their own professional operation around. They also think the fence is a ridiculous idea. Everyone I talked to from Kingsville south thinks its a stupid idea. They say if you really want to spend money on infrastucture to try to make a difference then dredge the Rio Grande. Maybe KBH is merely trying to listen and help her constituents.
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