WASHINGTON, Oct. 26 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President George W. Bush signed a bill on Thursday that authorizes the construction of 700 miles (1,126 km) of fence along the U.S.-Mexico border.
"This bill will help protect the American people. This bill will make our borders more secure," Bush said at the signing ceremony.
The bill, The Secure Fence Act of 2006, authorizes the construction of 700 miles additional fencing along the U.S. border with Mexico; authorizes more vehicle barriers, checkpoints, and lighting to help prevent people from entering the country illegally; and authorizes the Homeland Security Department to use more advanced technology like cameras, satellites, and unmanned aerial vehicles to monitor the border.
"We have a responsibility to secure our borders. We take this responsibility serious," Bush said.
Terming the bill an important step toward immigration reform, the president renewed his call for a temporary worker plan which he said would help reduce pressure on the border.
He said the United States must face the reality that millions of illegal immigrants were already in the country, and there was a "rational middle ground between granting an automatic pass to citizenship for every illegal immigrant and a program of mass deportation."
"I look forward to working with Congress to find that middle ground," he said.
While the fence was criticized by Mexican officials, Democrats called the bill a political stunt and might risk straining relations with Mexico.
The Republican-controlled Congress passed the legislation weeks ago, but the bill was not sent to Bush when the mid-term congressional elections were getting closer.
The bill to build a fence along the southern U.S. border was "a bumper-sticker solution that Republicans hope will provide cover for their stunning failure to produce comprehensive immigration reform," Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy said.