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Wanted reform, got a fence instead
An editorial / By Dale McFeatters
Scripps Howard News Service


October 27, 2006

President Bush was asked at his White House press conference what he called "a tricky little question" - in essence, since the Republican-controlled Congress had failed to give him his top second-term priorities, among them comprehensive immigration reform, wouldn't he be better off working with Democrats?

He gamely said no, he wanted the Republicans to stay in control of the House and Senate.

gif fence

700-Inch Mobile Border Security Fence
RJ Matson, The St. Louis Post Dispatch
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.

Surely the president must have reflected on that tricky little question the following day when he signed the Secure Fence Act, a name redolent of barnyard and pasture, with a modicum of fanfare to show that the GOP was doing something about illegal immigration. Unfortunately, what it did was not what Bush wanted it to do.

The president had proposed comprehensive immigration reform that included, among much else, his priorities of a guest-worker program and a path to legalization and eventually citizenship for most of the 11 million or so illegal immigrants already here. The plan also called for verifiable IDs and employer sanctions.

Bush got his comprehensive reform bill from the Senate, but it was Democrats who gave it to him - 38 Democrats voted for the measure, only four did not. The Republicans voted 32 nay and 23 yea.

But House Republicans and GOP opponents in the Senate insisted: First secure the borders and then we'll talk reform. Instead, what congressional Republicans gave their president was the Secure Fence Act, a $1.2 billion down payment on 700 miles of fence to secure the 2,100-mile border with Mexico. The finished fence will be wildly expensive and many, including the Border Patrol agents union, don't think it will work.

If Republicans remain in control of the House after the midterm elections, they will likely be reinforced in their opinion that they were right to buck their president and take a hard line. Meanwhile, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, who could be speaker if Democrats win, says comprehensive immigration reform is a Democratic priority.

A tricky little question for the president and a tricky little problem, too.


Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)
Distributed to subscribers for publication by
Scripps Howard News Service,

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