Border Security: Barriers Along the U.S. International Border [Updated June 5, 2007] [open pdf - 673KB]
"Congress has repeatedly shown interest in examining and expanding the barriers being deployed along the U.S. international land border. The 109th Congress passed a number of laws affecting these barriers, and oversight of these laws and of the construction process may be of interest to the 110th Congress. The United States Border Patrol (USBP) deploys fencing, which aims to impede the illegal entry of individuals, and vehicle barriers, which aim to impede the illegal entry of vehicles (but not individuals) along the border. The USBP first began erecting barriers in 1990 to deter illegal entries and drug smuggling in its San Diego sector. The ensuing 14 mile-long San Diego 'primary fence' formed part of the USBP's 'Prevention Through Deterrence' strategy, which called for reducing unauthorized migration by placing agents and resources directly on the border along population centers in order to deter would-be migrants from entering the country. In 1996, Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act which, among other things, explicitly gave the Attorney General (now the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security) broad authority to construct barriers along the border and authorized the construction of a secondary layer of fencing to buttress the completed 14 mile primary fence. Construction of the secondary fence stalled due to environmental concerns raised by the California Coastal Commission. In 2005, Congress passed the REAL ID Act that authorized the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to waive all legal requirements in order to expedite the construction of border barriers. DHS has since announced it will use this waiver authority to complete the San Diego fence. The Secure Fence Act of 2006 directed DHS to construct 850 miles of additional border fencing."
CRS Report for Congress, RL33659