Congressman Rob Bishop (UT-01), Chairman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, responded to remarks delivered today by President Obama from Texas regarding border security and immigration reform.
"It seems premature to discuss immigration policies when thousands of criminals continue to cross our border- many of whom enter completely undetected. In his remarks today, the President failed to acknowledge the rampant criminal activity occurring on public lands throughout the southern border region. Gaining full operational control of the border should be our number one priority. If your bathtub is overflowing, your first step isn't to start bailing out water, it's to turn off the spigot. The same practice should apply to the border," said Congressman Bishop.
Congressman Bishop was recently joined by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-NY), and House Appropriations Committee member Congressman John Carter (R-TX) in introducing the National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act [H.R. 1505].
Specifically, the National Security and Federal Protection Act:
* Prevents the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture from impeding, prohibiting, or restricting the Department of Homeland Security's efforts to obtain operational control of the border.
* Provides the Department of Homeland Security with immediate access to federal lands necessary to provide the utmost security throughout the border region.
* Allows the U.S. Border Patrol to construct and maintain roads and place surveillance equipment in strategic areas that will assist in detecting and apprehending criminals.
* Allows the Department of Homeland Security to waive certain policies preventing them from obtaining full operational control of the border.
"I am not surprised that the President chose El Paso, Texas as the location for today's remarks. El Paso seems to be one of the few areas along the southern border where security has improved in recent years. Physical infrastructure coupled with the U.S. Border Patrol's routine presence, much like in some parts of California, has been a successful deterrent for criminal smugglers and traffickers. While these areas may see fewer apprehensions, this does not mean that the overall security of the entire southern border has improved. It simply means the criminal organizations that operate trafficking and smuggling rings have found alternate crossing locations--the most sought after being on our public lands.
"Public lands along the southern border continue to see exceptionally high levels of criminal activity solely because restrictive environmental policies prevent the Border Patrol from having sufficient access to the highly trafficked areas. The President can add thousands of new Border Patrol agents as he touted in his speech, but that serves no purpose if they cannot access the areas frequented by traffickers and smugglers. How can they maintain full operational control when they can only access some, but not all, areas along the border? As a result, the Border Patrol confirms that there is no way to know exactly how many traffickers and smugglers enter through these areas each night with little or no detection. Any numbers being reported on this matter are inaccurate because again, there is simply no way to really know.
"Just last month, I toured the southern U.S. border in Arizona with Senator Tom Coburn. During our trip we heard first-hand from law enforcement personnel, current and former Border Patrol agents, as well as local community members that the Border Patrol's lack of access to public lands continues to hinder their ability to gain full operational control of the border. Allowing environmental policies to dictate national security is irresponsible and the Administration's claims that the border is more secure now than ever is dishonest and misleading. While it might score political points, it is disingenuous to tout inflated statistics and half truths about the status of the southern border. If the President and his Administration are serious about addressing the realities of the ongoing criminal activity occurring along the border, they will take time to examine and investigate the areas off-limits to the Border Patrol to get a first-hand account of the rampant criminal activity and environmental degradation occurring as a result of our nation's own environmental policies," Bishop added.