The controversy surrounding our nation's immigration system is just one more example of states and cities taking matters into their own hands due to enforcement failures by the federal government. As a member of the Immigration Reform Caucus, I am committed to promoting legal and safe immigration by discouraging illegal entry. We can do this through border security and removing incentives to break our laws and enter our country.
It is an unfortunate truth our southern border is a hotbed of violent criminal activity, some of which has led to death and destruction of private property. This matter is made worse because the federal government is prioritizing protecting ecosystems and wildlife along the border over controlling access and preventing illegal entry. The U.S. Department of the Interior has restricted and obstructed the Department of Homeland Security's ability to patrol the border on federally owned lands. This policy flies in the face of all logic and obstructs our border patrol's ability to do its job.
Border Patrol agents, by law, should have access to lands within 25 miles of the border with the exception of private dwellings. However, Border Patrol must negotiate with entities such as the National Forest Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, or the Bureau of Indian Affairs before they can patrol the public lands and ranges dotting our southern border.
One major thoroughfare for illegal immigration is the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge which has no pedestrian fence barring smugglers from entering the U.S. To make matters worse, the Border Patrol is forbidden from patrolling the area and can only enter under "life threatening circumstances" - which does not include apprehending a fugitive.
Recently, I called for a hearing on the increasing use of federal lands along the U.S.-Mexico border by criminal cartels. It is imperative our Border Patrol agents have the tools they need to do their job, and I hope such a hearing will shed light on the issues our border agents face when dealing with other federal agencies.
I am pleased the House-passed border security bill, which was signed into law in August, invests in border security and enforcement efforts without granting amnesty. The law also increases funding for Border Patrol agents to enforce immigration laws.
First and foremost, we must control our border. Unfortunately, some in Washington would instead inject the immigration debate into a bill designed to fund our troops defending our freedom.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) recently attempted to attach controversial provisions to the 2011 Defense Authorization bill, which authorizes funds for our military personnel, operations, and maintenance.
One provision, known as the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors or DREAM Act (S. 729), would grant undocumented youth "conditional permanent residency" based on two years of military service or the achievement of a college degree.
The American people deserve border security and comprehensive enforcement which does not provide amnesty for those who break the law. Instead of addressing an inclusive reform measure, the majority leadership in the Senate decided to play politics with legislation dedicated to funding our troops.
An estimated 12 million illegal immigrants reside in the United States, highlighting the need for immigration reform. I am committed to eliminating illegal entry while improving the efficiency and efficacy of the path to citizenship for law abiding individuals seeking a better life for themselves and their families.
I am proud to be the grandchild of immigrants who entered our country through Ellis Island looking to pursue the American dream. Unfortunately, failure by the federal government to enforce our laws and secure our borders has encouraged illegal entry into our country. This dangerous situation will only continue to threaten our national and economic security until workable immigration policies are in place.