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Public Statements

Providing for Consideration of H.R. 2578, Conservation and Economic Growth Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. POLIS. I thank the gentlelady for the time as I rise in opposition to the rule.

I agree with my colleague from Iowa. I voted for the amendment to the rule offered by Mr. Hastings of Florida that would have allowed his amendment and others.

What are we scared of here? This is what we do. We are the House of Representatives. Let us work our will. Some of us will be for amendments, and some of us will be against amendments. But to hold all that power to a select group of people rather than allow the entire membership of this body to offer--again, we're talking about relevant amendments that meet the requirements, meet the rules of the House. What are we scared of in bringing that forward? Let's have a discussion on the merits.

Instead, what do we have here under this rule? We have 14 separate bills all cobbled together with a limited period of time to debate all of them and without an opportunity to amend them from both sides of the aisle that would have been afforded under either an open process or a structured process that allowed all the rules that met the requirements to be debated under this bill each for their own period of time.

Now, I want to discuss in particular what I find to be one of the most egregious provisions of the bill, which is really a solution in search of a problem, namely, this is an aspect of the bill that would waive over 40 environmental safety and public health laws and give Department of Homeland Security complete authority to seize control of Federal lands within 100 miles of our northern and southern borders.

Now this provision's reach is broad. It rolls back all of the relevant protection laws. And again, for what purpose? We had a discussion in the Rules Committee yesterday, and I, with my colleague Mr. Bishop from Utah, had the opportunity to follow up.

And it is very clear in statute that in any wilderness or any Federal lands, under any level of protection, if they are in hot pursuit of a suspect, they are allowed to continue that pursuit in the wilderness. Wilderness areas are not some sort of legal sanctuary where criminals can go and not be pursued. That has nothing to do with the purpose of wilderness, and it has nothing to do with the reality of wilderness. Much of my district in Colorado has wilderness areas. And if, in fact, there were these lawless areas that the police couldn't go to pursue suspects, all the criminals would live in the wilderness, and they would simply come out to commit crimes and then go back in. That is simply not the case. Law enforcement officials assure me that whenever they're engaged in hot pursuit, they are able to, of course, continue to pursue immigrants or others, criminal aliens, et cetera, into wilderness territories.

Now this is a problem, the immigration issue, that cannot simply be enforced away. When we're talking about immigrants without papers, they are in our cities and towns. They are in our schools. They are the grandmother of the American grandkids. They are residents of our communities. They are people who I meet with on a regular basis. We try to help our immigrants get on with their lives, contribute to our country, and make it stronger.

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Mr. POLIS. Yes, there's a problem here. And thankfully, President Obama took a bold first step and reduced the number of illegal immigrants in this country by 800,000 to 1 million with one stroke of his pen. But frankly, the presence of any illegal immigrants in this country is an affront to our law and an affront to our national sovereignty.

We owe it to the American people to take up real immigration reform to ensure that there are not 15 million people here illegally, not 10 million people here illegally, but there are zero people here illegally through comprehensive immigration reform, of which President Obama took the bold first step of ensuring that young de facto Americans have their permission to work.

Look, our undocumented population is not fleeing into the wilderness, and the problem with immigration is not that we are not able to pursue them. It's simply not the facts on the ground. Let's deal with the real issue and replace our broken immigration issue with one that works and makes our country stronger.

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Mr. POLIS. I thank the gentlelady. And in response to my friend from Utah, I want to quote the MOU specifically. It says:

Nothing in this MOU is intended to prevent CBP-BP agents from exercising existing exigent/emergency authorities to access lands, including authority to conduct motorized off-road pursuit of suspected CBVs at any time.

And it goes on to say in wilderness and wilderness study areas, and all different areas.

In fact, the committee had a hearing on this very topic. There were three instances cited by Chairman Bishop on this, and it was determined that those were incorrect interpretations of this existing MOU by local managers, and it would be addressed through the command structure. So again, a solution in search of a problem.

We all want to address the problem of illegal immigration in this country, but that problem cannot be characterized as illegal immigrants fleeing into the wilderness. It simply isn't the problem. If there are suspects of any type of criminal nature fleeing into wilderness and there is law enforcement in hot pursuit, they continue; they continue, and they don't stop. If they stop, they'll be in trouble with their superiors, and we'll work it out through the command change.

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