In July, when a handful of Democrats joined the chorus of Republicans calling for increased border wall construction through Senator Jim DeMint’s (R-SC) amendment to the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Act, we feared the worst. Senator DeMint’s amendment set a new bar by requiring 700 miles of double-layer, pedestrian fencing be completed by the end of 2010.
This meant portions of vehicle or single layer fencing would need to be reconstructed and additional miles of fencing added to meet the 700-mile minimum. Simply put, we were facing the expansion of an all too familiar strategy of enforcement-only approaches to handling our broken immigration system.
August became a month of frantic organizing among humanitarian, environmental, faith-based, and public policy advocates, in coordination with border coalitions, to ensure that upon their return to the Hill legislators and conferees would be greeted by our unified opposition.
With September’s arrival, we began feeling that things might fall in our favor. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report highlighting the inefficiency of border wall construction. Among their findings, GAO reported 3,363 visible breaches of the wall costing an average of $1,300 each in repairs; at that rate, they estimated a price tag of $6.5 billion in maintenance over 20 years!
The last significant piece of the puzzle was grassroots pressure. When we reached out to LAWG supporters, you responded by sending over 1,600 messages to 319 different congressional offices! Your messages joined those of many other groups also taking action. When the House and Senate reconciled the two versions of the bills in early October, the DeMint amendment had been dropped, marking the first ever defeat of counterproductive border fencing legislation.
So take a brief moment to celebrate; together, we did it! We thank you for your dedication. We do ask, however, that you make it brief. While the decision to drop the DeMint amendment gives us hope, we know a lot more progress must be made and action taken in our campaign to Promote Justice in Mexico and the Borderlands.