Leahy-Cornyn Bipartisan Amendment “Leahy4” Ensures Effective Use of Border Funds

From The Senate Judiciary Committee Majority Staff
S. 744: The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act
Leahy-Cornyn Bipartisan Amendment “Leahy4” Ensures Effective Use of Border Funds

Over the last couple of years, we have dramatically increased our fencing on the Southern Border. 

We now have over 655 miles of fence infrastructure at a cost of nearly $2.5 billion. 

What the Amendment Does

The Leahy-Cornyn Fence Amendment allows the Department of Homeland Security to use the $1.5 billion in fencing funding provided by S.744 as effectively as possible.  It requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to consult with local governments and communities that will be affected by fence-building activity, and ensures transparency in the Department’s decision-making process.  It also makes clear that the nothing in the bill authorizes fencing at the Northern Border.

Why It Is Needed

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has testified that DHS needs greater flexibility in how it can use fencing funding, to ensure resources are well spent.  This bipartisan amendment provides that flexibility, and takes other common sense steps to improve upon the bill’s fencing strategy and provisions. 


  • The Leahy-Cornyn amendment gives DHS the flexibility it needs to more effectively use the $1.5 billion that S.744 allocates to fencing along the Southern border.  It allows DHS to deploy fencing, infrastructure, and technology, including at ports of entry, to help deter unlawful border crossings.  At least $1 billion of the funding must be spent directly on fencing.
  • The amendment acknowledges the dramatic effect that fencing can have on border communities and on fragile border ecosystems.  Accordingly, it requires DHS to consult with states, local and tribal governments, property owners, and the Department of Interior and the Department of Agriculture as it implements the fencing strategy.
  • It ensures transparency by providing that if DHS waives legal requirements to construct improvements at the border, it must specify which laws it is waiving and for how long.  This is necessary because past DHS waivers have been drafted so broadly that they left local governments without clear guidance about which state and local laws were waived, raising federalism concerns.
  • The amendment makes clear that nothing in this bill authorizes fencing at the Northern border.
  • These are modest, common sense changes that would promote effective border security, transparency, good governance, and respect for state and local laws.

Press Contact

Press Contact
David Carle: 202-224-3693