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House Republicans: Stop squabbling and secure the border
Posted by Committee Staff on April 15, 2010
House Republicans introduced legislation Wednesday that would prohibit the Department of the Interior from using environmental regulations to interfere with the Department of Homeland Security’s attempts to secure the nation’s southern border.

As The Examiner reported in February, an ongoing feud between the two federal departments has left 4.3 million acres of federal wilderness land along the Mexican border virtually unprotected. So many drug smugglers, human traffickers, rapists and other criminals enter the U.S. at will that the park areas are now considered unsafe for all U.S. citizens.

The legislation would give DHS operational control over the border, free from Interior’s bureaucratic interference, and allow the Border Patrol to use vehicles and install electronic surveillance apparatus in wilderness areas without Interior’s approval.

The nearly-decade-old standoff currently allows illegal border crossers to sneak into the U.S. and trash environmentally sensitive desert areas, frustrating the mission of both departments.

Officials say that on March 27, Arizona rancher Rob Krentz was killed by a criminal who entered and exited the U.S. through the San Bernardino Wildlife Refuge - one of the same areas Border Patrol agents have not been allowed to adequately monitor. The Fish and Wildlife Service restricts BP agents’ access to the 2,300 acre refuge to foot and horseback patrols, allowing vehicles to enter only in an “emergency”.

“The gravity of the situation must no longer be ignored,” said House National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee ranking member Rob Bishop, R-UT, who has spent months trying to get the two departments to work together.

“What many fail to recognize is that allowing the Border Patrol to apprehend and deter trains of criminal traffickers will not only remedy weaknesses in border security, but also improve the health and vitality of our protected federal lands, which have been severely damaged by years of abuse from drug and human traffickers,” Rep. Bishop pointed out.

Cross-posted at Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential.

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