Hoyer: If We Built Border Fence, Children Would Just Stand Behind It

July 9, 2014 - 4:58 AM

border fence

A Border Patrol agent stands on a ranch fence line with children taken into custody in South Texas. (AP File Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - House Democratic Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) says illegal immigrant children would “just stand at the fence” if the federal government built the double-layered fence required under the 2006 Secure Fence Act.

During a press briefing Tuesday, CNSNews.com asked Hoyer, “Should Congress revisit building a physical, double-layered fence as was included in the 2006 Secure Fence Act?”

“Let’s say you build a fence, just hypothetically, and you saw five hundred children standing at the fence, and you saw them standing there 24 hours, 48 hours, 72 hours, 96 hours. There’s a fence there and they can’t go anywhere and they stay there. What do you do?” Hoyer responded.

“This is a humanitarian crisis, not a…these are children who are being used, or children who are fleeing from what they perceive to be danger,” he added.

“The issue is, most of these children, as I understand, are not sneaking across the border,” Hoyer continued. “Most of these children are wanting to be taken into custody. And yes you could build a fence so they could just stand at the fence, and they’re…one was a four-year-old child.”

CNSNews.com also asked Hoyer: But would they even come if there was a fence?

“Well, and they may not,” he replied. “But clearly we have to indicate that they…we cannot give these children sanctuary except under extraordinary circumstances. Obviously we have refugee status and protective status for people. But just the wholesale coming over the border, children of either teens or less, is not sustainable in the United States.

“But whether the building of the fence itself is the answer…we have fences along the border. Not every place, but most places. And people still come over, under and around the fences,” he said. “America is a very attractive place to come and it causes us a problem. But we all agree the border must be secured. We cannot have people coming into the United States who are not authorized to do so.”

“The United States cannot be expected to give (sanctuary) to every child in the world that is exposed to danger in their country because of the failure of that country’s government,” Hoyer said.

The 2006 Secure Fence Act, passed with bipartisan support and signed into law by President George W. Bush, states that “the Secretary of Homeland Security shall provide for at least 2 layers of reinforced fencing, the installation of additional physical barriers, roads, lighting, cameras and sensors” across roughly 700 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border – including one section “extending 15 miles northwest of the Laredo, Texas port of entry to the Brownsville, Texas, port of entry.”

This specified fence section includes Texas’s southwest border, where the vast majority of illegal aliens are currently flooding border patrol stations at a rate of more that 1,200 per day.

The law was amended the following year to include allowances for tough geographical areas, saying that "nothing in this paragraph shall require the Secretary of Homeland Security to install fencing, physical barriers, roads, lighting, cameras, and sensors in a particular location along an international border of the United States, if the Secretary determines that the use or placement of such resources is not the most appropriate means to achieve and maintain operational control over the international border at such location."

The exception provided a loophole allowing for other types of fencing, including “virtual fencing,” in lieu of the high double-layered barriers stipulated in the original law.

During a 2011 speech in El Paso, Texas, Obama claimed the fence was “basically complete.”

"They'll want a higher fence," Obama said of Republicans calling for greater border security. "Maybe they’ll need a moat. Maybe they want alligators in the moat. They’ll never be satisfied. And I understand that. That’s politics."

At the time, Politifact rated Obama’s claim as barely true, pointing out that of the 700 specified miles, less than 40 miles were in fact double-layered as the original law required. Another 350 miles were comprised of single-layered pedestrian fencing, with another 299 miles protected only by vehicle barriers that could easily be avoided by foot traffic.

Gaps and all, the current fence cost about $3 billion to complete according to a 2010 Bloomberg article – almost $1 billion less than the $3.8 billion in emergency funding Hoyer said Obama recently requested of Congress to deal with the droves of illegal aliens pouring across the border daily.

“I have not analyzed it very thoroughly but it’s about $3.8 billion, and it’s split between customs and border patrol security,” Hoyer said, adding the funds will be used for “litigation capabilities and lawyers” and “additional facilities to house in a humanitarian safe way these children who have come across the border.”

Between last October and June 15, more than 181,000 illegal aliens have crossed the Southwest U.S. border, the Department of Homeland Security reports. Of these, roughly 52,000 are unaccompanied minors, meaning they crossed the border without a parent.