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Senators Vote for 370-Mile Fence on Border

Senate conservatives push through an immigration-bill amendment calling for 370 miles of fencing to be built along the U.S.-Mexico border -- a measure that saw only 16 senators voting "no." The Senate is in its second attempt to pass an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws.

Citing a recommendation by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions proposed erecting 370 miles of fencing three layers deep along the U.S.-Mexico border, saying, "Good fences make good neighbors. Fences don't make bad neighbors -- go to the San Diego border, and talk to the people there."

Sessions said crime levels dropped 56 percent after a triple-layer fence went up along the border near San Diego.

In response, Massachusetts Democrat Edward Kennedy said he was all for securing strategic spots along the border -- but nearly 400 miles of space. Kennedy said, "Let's be serious, 400 miles, that's almost a quarter of the whole southern border."

Other opponents of the new fencing, which is half of what's called for in a House bill, called it an ugly symbol for Mexico.

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David Welna is NPR's national security correspondent.