www.usatoday.com

Posted 11/17/2005 4:12 AM

Momentum builds for fence along U.S.-Mexican border

By Mimi Hall, USA TODAY
A once-radical idea to build a 2,000-mile steel-and-wire fence on the U.S.-Mexican border is gaining momentum amid warnings that terrorists can easily sneak into the country.
In Congress, a powerful Republican lawmaker this week proposed building such a fence across the entire border and two dozen other lawmakers signed on. And via the Internet, a group called weneedafence.com has raised enough money to air TV ads warning that the border is open to terrorists.

Even at the Homeland Security Department, which opposes building a border-long fence, Secretary Michael Chertoff this fall waived environmental laws so that construction can continue on a 14-mile section of fence near San Diego that has helped border agents stem the flow of illegal migrants and drug runners.

"You have to be able to enforce your borders," says California Rep. Duncan Hunter, the Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. He's proposing a fence from San Diego to Brownsville, Texas. "It's no longer just an immigration issue. It's now a national security issue."

Colin Hanna of weneedafence.com says "there is incredible momentum on this issue," fueled by the specter of another Sept. 11. His group aired TV ads in Washington, D.C., this fall and plans more next year.

Fencing the border, originally proposed in the debate over how to stop illegal immigration, is controversial. The Bush administration argues that a Berlin Wall-style barrier would be a huge waste of money â€