Stabenow, Levin Support Extended Border Fence as Senate Debates Immigration Reform

Following President Bush’s address to the nation on Monday, debate on immigration form continued throughout the week in the Senate. The Senate voted in favor of measures that would build a 370 mile extension to fencing along the United States and Mexico border as well as a measure that would make English the official language of the United States. While voting against the English-only measure, Michigan Senators Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin supported the border fence.

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On Thursday, the United States Senate voted to approve 370 miles of additional fencing along the United States-Mexico border. The fence, according Senator Jeff Session of Alabama, will cost $3.2 million per mile for a total of more than $900 million. Sessions praised the construction of the fence stating that its construction will send “a signal that open-border days are over. … Good fences make good neighbors, fences don’t make bad neighbors” and that areas where fences are already in place have experienced reduced crime and economic growth. On Friday, the Bush administration said that it supported the Senate’s vote to build additional fencing. The House of Representatives immigration reform bill, HR 4437 calls for the construction of a 700-mile fence. Stabenow and Levin split on a vote on an amendment that would require immigrants to pay a supplemental application fee, with Levin voting against the measure and Stabenow supporting it.

Despite their support for an extended fence along the border, Senators and Stabenow voted against an amendment that would make English “the national language” of the United States. The amendment designated English as the “national” language instead of the “official” language in order to gain more support in the Senate, with the summary of the amendment reading “to declare English as the national language of the United States and to promote the patriotic integration of prospective US citizens” and would effectively ban federal government ordinances and services in any language other than English. The amendment says that “unless otherwise authorized or provided by law, no person has a right, entitlement or claim to have the government of the U.S. or any of its officials or representatives act, communicate, perform or provide services, or provide materials in any language other than English.” The amendment also makes English the official language of record, reading that “If any forms are issued by the federal government in a language other that English … the English language version of the form is the sole authority for all legal purposes.” Proficiency requirements in English and United States History would also increase while no additional funding would be provided for English as a second language (ESL) classes.

The measure passed the Senate by a vote of 63 to 34, with the majority of Republican Senators voting for the measure and the majority of Democrats voting against it in a debate during which Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid described the amendment as “racist.” Despite the his rhetoric against making English the “national” language, many Democratic Senators—including Michigan Senators Stabenow and Levin—supported an amendment that declared English the “common and unifying language of the United States” in an effort to soften the “national” language measure proposed by Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma. Inhofe described the idea of making English the “official’ language of the United States as something that “people have talked about now for four decades that I know of, and I believe it should be popular” and went on to say that a “solid majority” of United States citizens support the measure. Currently 43 million Americans speak a language other than English in their homes and 336 languages are spoke throughout the United States due in large part to mass immigration in the twentieth century.

Author: mediamouse

Grand Rapids independent media // mediamouse.org