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Conservation and Economic Growth Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. GRIJALVA. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I wanted to talk, and maybe list, so that the American people and the Members of Congress understand the scope and the depth of H.R. 2578, in particular, title XIV: National Park Service Units within 100 Miles of the U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canadian Borders. There are 54 National Park Service units and 11 National Park Service wilderness areas:

Acadia National Park; Amistad National Recreation Area; Apostle Islands National Lakeshore-Gaylord Nelson Wilderness; Big Bend National Park; Cabrillo National Monument; Carlsbad Caverns National Park-Carlsbad Caverns Wilderness; Casa Grande Ruins National Monument; Chamizal National Memorial; Chiricahua National Monument-Chiricahua Wilderness; Coronado National Memorial; Isle Royale National Park-Isle Royale Wilderness; James A. Garfield National Historic Site; Joshua Tree National Park; Keweenaw National Historical Park; Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park; Lake Chelan National Recreation Area; Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area; Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park; Nez Perce National Historical Park; North Cascades National Park-Stephen Mather Wilderness; Olympic National Park-Olympic Wilderness; Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument; Organ Pipe Wilderness; Padre Island National Seashore; Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park; Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial; Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore; River Raisin National Battlefield Park; Ross Lake National Recreation Area; Saguaro National Park-Saguaro Wilderness; St. Croix Island International Historic Site; San Juan Island National Historical Park; Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site; Theodore Roosevelt National Park; Tumacacori National Historical Park; Voyageurs National Park; White Sands National Monument; Women's Rights National Historical Park; Wrangell-St. Elias National Park; Wrangell-St. Elias National Preserve; Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve.

I list those because turning these shared treasures of the American people from the land managers that provide the access, the interpretation, and the multiuse mandate to these areas to an agency like Homeland Security with no expertise, no track record, no history, and giving them carte blanche, almost czar-like control over these valuable legacy parks of our Nation, is one of the reasons that we have 66 organizations--environmental, Latino, and consumer organizations--opposed to the legislation and opposed in particular to title XIV.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. GRIJALVA. I think the purpose of title XIV of H.R. 2578 is not to make the border more secure. Rather, the purpose of the bill is to use border security as cover to effectively repeal more than a century of environmental protections for Americans living and working along our borders with Canada and Mexico.

In April, the Natural Resources Committee held a joint oversight hearing with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, during which the Government Accountability Office, the Interior Department, the Agriculture Department, and the Border Patrol all testified under oath that Federal land management laws do not impair border security. According to the GAO report, 22 of 26 Border Patrol agents-in-charge that were interviewed reported that Federal land management laws had no impact on the overall security status of their jurisdiction.

In summary, the number of Border Patrol agents-in-charge who found that Federal land management laws were impeding border security but were prevented from fixing the problems by the Interior Department was exactly zero. The administration concurred with this finding at multiple hearings. The
record is clear. And the problem this bill claims to solve does not exist.

The true purpose of this legislation is also clear. The proponents oppose the more-than-30 bedrock environmental protections that will be effectively repealed by this legislation, including the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Drinking Water Act, everywhere, not just within 100 miles of the border. Title XIV employs a manufactured conflict with border security to weaken their application.

The laws to be waived by this act are the work product of dozens of administrations and Congresses, developed after thousands of hours of negotiation and compromise and, in most cases, were enacted with strong bipartisan support. Title XIV hands the Border Patrol a unilateral veto over all of these laws, all this work, and all this bipartisan effort.

Enactment of this legislation and title XIV would not only allow DHS to trample the ground near the border. It would also allow the Agency to trample the rights of States and Native people. This legislation would empower individual patrol agents to enter tribal land without notice and conduct any and all activities, including excavation and construction, without regard for the presence of tribal sites or tribal leadership.

The real problem of border enforcement is one of manpower, budgets, economic incentives, and difficult terrain. This bill addresses none of those concerns. We will not secure our borders by allowing our waters to be polluted. We will not secure our borders by allowing our air to be dirtier, by ignoring the laws that have protected the environment and the American people. That will not bring security to the border.

This legislation and title XIV reduce the number of immigrants coming to this country. If it does, it will only be because the water, air, and economics of our border communities are so degraded that no one wants to come there anymore. This legislation is sweeping. It's reactionary. This bill is not what it appears to be. And it should be rejected.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. GRIJALVA. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Without a doubt, proponents of H.R. 2578 and, in particular, title XIV, the border bill portion, claim this legislation will end the horrors of the border, that it will secure the border and, finally, Arizona and the rest of the Nation will be ready to sit down, conduct real work, and reach comprehensive immigration reform.

The horrors they will describe--the rape tree, the murders, the abuse of people--some are quite real. The violence is conducted by criminal organizations that prey on desperate and poor people, fueled by a drug trade that produces billions upon billions of dollars for these very criminals that create the violence.

In the last decade, over 4,000 souls have died trying to cross through the most desolate parts of the Arizona desert. And this human tragedy should not be the excuse to undo environmental and public protection laws, which the majority has been attacking on all fronts since the beginning of this Congress. This is a dangerous precedent, that in order to secure the border we must lose those protections. It's an absurd connection, and there is no correlation.

It is interesting that in the list of laws to be waived, if we are truly to make a dent in that violence, we find no mention of suspending the unregulated gun shows that happen in border regions. Eighty-five percent of the assault rifles used by cartels and organized crime syndicates along the border and in Mexico originate in the United States from these gun shows. It is interesting that there is no mention of suspending Federal support for U.S. financial interests that harbor and launder money from Mexican crime syndicates here in the United States.

The environmental laws and protections being eliminated under title XIV will not bring long-term solutions to our beleaguered southern border. These laws are not the reasons for the stress. The reason for the stress is the unwillingness of this Congress to deal with immigration reform and the broken immigration system. Enforcement is part of the solution; it is not the only part of the solution.

The stress is caused by politicians who either exploit the issue for their own gain or run away from the issue because of their own fear of it. To begin to deal with this issue, we need the resolve to work toward comprehensive immigration reform. But all the majority wants to do is scapegoat its lack of resolve to deal with this real issue in order to advance an agenda to hijack the laws that have served our public lands and our citizens well for decades.

This is a terrible precedent. It's backdoor amnesty for polluters, developers, and mining industries. And those extremists want all these protections and environmental laws eliminated. The border is the excuse; the target is the environment.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. GRIJALVA. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself the remainder of my time.

This package of 14 bills is an unwarranted combination of individual bills that would do serious and lasting damage to communities and people across this country. Many of the individual pieces are controversial, but they are overshadowed by title XIV, the drone zone title.

The drone zone created by this bill would trample the environment and the personal freedoms of millions of people living within 100 miles of the border. At a time when the clock is ticking on the reauthorization of the highway trust fund, where real jobs can be created, we are wasting time on this misguided package. At a time when the clock is ticking on making college loans remain affordable, we are wasting time on this package. We should reject H.R. 2578 and get down to the serious work, which is to create jobs and help middle class families make ends meet.

Mr. DeFazio and Ranking Member Markey and I will be offering amendments to address the absolute worst aspects of this package. I urge my colleagues to support the amendments. Unfortunately, even those amendments cannot fix all that is wrong with this package, and I ask my colleagues to reject H.R. 2578. There is a point in which common sense and sanity should prevail in this House. We have a piece of legislation that begs the question on both before us, and I would urge its defeat.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. GRIJALVA. Out of all the titles cobbled together under this one piece of legislation, title XIV is the most alarming, so I have introduced this amendment to strike it all from the bill.

Not only is it the text of one of the most controversial bills introduced in this Congress, its intent is to expand the scope and the authority of one government agency to achieve a loosely defined objective, an agency that has not even asked for this expanded authority. Title XIV of this legislation would supersize Customs and Border Protection so they could seize control of Federal lands within 100 miles of the northern and southern borders. It would be at their discretion and without any recourse by the public to be able to counter that.

If this bill were to become law, families who use our parks, forests, and wildlife areas in all of these States could be subject to increased surveillance without any notification. We already know what happens to the economic welfare of families and what has happened to the economies of the States of Alabama and Arizona when States pass hostile anti-immigrant laws. This takes the same concept and spreads it across our northern and southern borders.

Right now, Customs and Border Protection isn't suffering from a lack of authority. If anything, it is suffering from a lack of focus. The ability to access Federal lands isn't causing Border Patrol problems. In the most recent GAO report, radios that don't work and the lack of infrastructure and personnel are what they have cited as being barriers.

Yesterday, during the debate over the rule for the bill, the sponsor of the legislation that has become title XIV claimed that we can't deal with the issue of immigration reform before securing our land borders. He went on to say that people are angry about the situation at the border and that, before this anger is addressed, we can't do anything about our broken immigration system, so we are going to pay some lip service to border security to advance what is essentially an anti-environment and anti-immigrant agenda.

That should make many of us angry because it adds to the division in our Nation and to the sense of millions of families in the border region and across this country who feel they are political pawns in a system--in a game--that is never ending. Millions of people live along these 100 miles, and they deserve the same protection from environmental pollution or government overreach that the rest of us in the country enjoy.

The original bill granted DHS a waiver of 36 laws. The recently introduced amendment would allow that list to be 16. The fact that we were able to concede half of the original list proves that the bill is, from the outset, an unnecessary overreach. The 16 laws left in the legislation are not minor statutes. They include the National Historic Preservation Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Antiquities Act, the Wilderness Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act.

The solution to a broken system along the border is comprehensive immigration reform. If you took that 100-mile zone along the southern border and made it into a State, it would lead the Nation in poverty, unemployment, educational attainment, the lowest wages, the most uninsured, and the lowest economic growth. Yet this legislation and title XIV, once again, take this region, and instead of providing support and comprehensive attention to it, we further marginalize and isolate it.

All the laws that are being waived and eliminated are all landmark pieces of legislation that guide and manage our Federal lands, resources that belong to every single American taxpayer. Throwing away decades of law that help protect and preserve our Federal lands makes no sense. The supporters of this legislation will say it is necessary to address the horrors and violence that occur on the border. That's not true. It's back-door amnesty for extremist anti-environmental groups, industries, and developers who lust after our public resources for private profit at taxpayers' expense.

That is why I've introduced my amendment to strike the title from the bill. I encourage its support and reserve my time.

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