What Is The Secure Fence Act Of 2006, & Why Is It Relevant To The Border Wall Debate?

by Morgan Brinlee
Mario Tama/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The Trump administration has, for more than a week now, been attempting to push Democrats into signing off on the more than $5 billion President Donald Trump has demanded for his border wall. But as threats of a long shutdown have appeared fruitless, the Trump administration seems to be turning to a new tactic — remind them of the good ol' days. In an interview with CNN on Sunday, counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway said Trump just wanted 2019 Democrats to be the 2006 Democrats who'd supported the Secure Fence Act. But just what is the Secure Fence Act of 2006?

As the partial government shutdown moved into its second week Saturday, both Trump and Congressional Democrats appeared to be no closer to a spending deal than they were before the deadline. In fact, Trump appears to be more focused on reminiscing about the past than he is on coming up with a compromise. "The President would like the Democrats to be in 2019 who they've been in 2006 with the Secure Fences [sic] Act," Conway told CNN's Dana Bash during Sunday's episode of State of the Union.

The Secure Fence Act of 2006, which authorized the construction of 700 miles of double-layered fencing along part of the U.S.-Mexico border, was signed into law by former President George W. Bush after it received a fair amount of bipartisan support in Congress. According to Congressional records, 64 Democrats voted for the bill in the House, helping it pass 283-138. The legislation then went on to easily pass 80-19 in the Senate.

At the time, the Bush administration hailed the bill as "an important step forward in our nation's efforts to control our borders and reform our immigration system." Along with authorizing the construction of fencing, the bill also authorized added vehicle barriers, checkpoints, and lighting along the southern border as well as an increased use of advanced technology like cameras, satellites, and unmanned aerial vehicles.

However, Democrats' support for the bill didn't stem from the same place that Trump's desire for a border wall likely does. According to The Boston Globe, Democrats who supported the Secure Fence Act of 2006 saw it "as the better of two evils" when compared to a House-passed bill that sought to define any undocumented immigrant as felons. "By comparison, the border fence didn’t seem so bad," the paper noted.

What's more, many in Washington reportedly weren't convinced at the time that the legislation would accomplish much, The Globe reported. "This bill, from my perspective, is an election-year, political solution," the paper quoted then-Sen. Barack Obama as having said in a floor speech. "It is great for sound bites and ad campaigns."

On Sunday, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham implied that it was Democrats who had "pulled the rug out from" Trump and Republicans by suddenly dropping their support for border security. "Democrats have voted for 700 miles of secure fencing in 2006," Graham said. "The bottom line is they want Trump to lose more than they want the country to win, I fear. At the end of the day there's a deal to be had but everybody is changing their position here and most Americans are pretty tired of it."

But Democrats have said that they support border security, they just don't support Trump's plan for a wall. "Democrats have offered Republicans multiple proposals to keep the government open, including one that already passed the Senate unanimously, & all of which include funding for strong, sensible, & effective border security – not the president's ineffective and expensive wall," soon-to-be Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi tweeted last week.

It's worth noting that Pelosi voted against the Secure Fence Act of 2006, according to both VoteSmart and The Hill.

And in an interview with ABC News, Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries characterized Trump's border wall as a "waste" of taxpayer money. "At its core, our responsibility in government is to manage public money. We can either manage it efficiently or we can waste taxpayer dollars," Jeffries said during an interview on ABC's This Week. "What Donald Trump and the Republicans want to do is waste $5 billion in taxpayer money on an ineffective, medieval border wall that is a 5th century solution to a 21st century problem."