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Congress drops border fence extension from Homeland Security appropriations

[JURIST] Members of the US Congress have removed an amendment [S AMDT 1399 materials] to the 2010 Homeland Security Appropriations bill [HR 2892 materials] that sought to require additional construction of the US-Mexico border fence [JURIST news archive]. The amendment, introduced by Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) [official website], had been narrowly passed [roll call vote] by the Senate in July. It called for the completion of 700 miles of reinforced fencing along the border, not to be substituted for "virtual fencing" or low-rise vehicle barriers. Of the $42.78 billion allocated for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), $10.1 billion is directed toward Customs and Border Protection [official websites], $800 million of which is for fencing, infrastructure and technology [agreement, PDF] along the Southwest border. Currently, nearly 700 miles of the border are enforced with a combination of fencing, virtual-fencing, patrol and other means. It is estimated that the fence will cost $2.4 billion to complete [report, PDF] and an additional $6.5 billion to maintain it for 20 years.

Border fence construction has been met with many legal challenges. In June, the US Supreme Court [official website] denied certiorari [JURIST report] in County of El Paso, Texas v. Napolitano [docket; cert. petition, PDF], in which it was asked to consider whether the DHS secretary's broad authority in constructing a border fence was an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power. That same month, a lawsuit brought against the DHS by the Texas Border Coalition [advocacy website] was dismissed [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] in federal court. The Coalition had challenged [JURIST report] the condemnation of land for fence construction and land access compensation under the Administrative Procedure Act [text, PDF], the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 and the Fifth Amendment [text] due process clause. The fence construction was authorized [JURIST report] in 2006 by then-president George W. Bush.

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