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Public Statements

Conservation and Economic Growth Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. BISHOP of Utah. Mr. Chairman, the minority insists that we are creating some sort of drone zone in title XIV. Now, I understand the intent of that is to muddy the waters on what is otherwise a very clear issue. Can I tell you, I like that phrase, I'm going to use it in the future, but it is also as cute as it is totally inaccurate.

Members should understand that this title specifically and intentionally deals with Federal lands on the northern and southern borders. It does not include private property. The use of the size characteristics are as cute as they are inaccurate.

The legislation does not expand the current reach of the Border Patrol. The Border Patrol already has enforcement authority out to 100 miles today. That's why the 100-mile figure is in there.

The gentleman is also late in his authorization of drones. The use of drones is not authorized by this legislation. The fact is the Border Patrol already uses drones, regardless of what the Federal or the land designation happens to be. With passage of this title and this bill, the impact on drone use will be zero. Whether you support drones or are concerned with drones, this bill doesn't address it. Once again, it's cute as it is inaccurate.

This legislation does not increase or create new enforcement authority. It does not limit constitutional rights. The only source of this bill, this title, is to allow the Border Patrol to have on Federal property the same rights they exercise on State and private property.

These lands will still be managed and administered by the Departments of Interior and Agriculture, but border security will no longer be a second to the whims of Federal land managers. It becomes the priority.

The idea of rounding up cattle by the Border Patrol is as cute as it is inaccurate, but I am going to use it because it's cute.

This bill specifically protects legal uses, including recreation, and specifically prohibits the Border Patrol from limiting public access.

Now, some people have said on the other side they object to this operational control of these areas by the Border Patrol.

What does ``operational control'' mean? It's in the title. It is to prevent all unlawful entries into the United States, including entries by terrorists, other unlawful aliens, instruments of terrorism, narcotics and other contraband through the international land borders with the United States.

You're actually opposed to that? You're opposed to doing that? You're opposed to actually allowing our Border Patrol to make sure that is the purpose and that is what is happening?

This bill is about giving the Border Patrol access to Federal lands so they can do their Federal responsibility instead of being prohibited from fulfilling their Federal responsibility by certain Federal regulations. That's silly. That's wrong. It's cute, but it's also inaccurate.

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Mr. BISHOP of Utah. Mr. Chairman, there are basically four elements that are involved in the amendment that I am proposing. The first one is to narrow the list of laws that can be waived by the Border Patrol on these areas to maintain operational control of the land. Presently, it lists 36 bills that could be waived.

Now I want you to know that that number was not irrational. It was not picked out of the air. Thirty-six bills have precedence of what this House has already done.

When the government was trying to finish the fence in California, there were litigations and environmental laws that were prohibiting them from doing that, so the Department of Homeland Security recommended the 36 laws that they thought did or could impede the building of that particular wall along our border. Congress agreed with them and, for the purpose of concluding that wall, we allowed them to waive those 36 rules, regulations, or laws.

Those are the same 36 in this bill. It's nothing additional to it. Well, I take that back. Democrats add one bill in committee that was not part of the original list, and that was fine as well.

What we are now trying to do is admit that about 20 of those really are not going to be a problem, but 16 still could be. So it limits it from 36 to 16, as those that can be waived for the purpose of allowing Border Patrol and Homeland Security to do the job for which they are paid to do.

The second thing, it specifically prohibits any additional access to private property. It eliminates the possibility of Border Patrol reducing public access to any Federal lands, and that includes for purposes of hunting or fishing or off-road vehicles.

It adds a provision to ensure that we are to protect tribal sovereignty, that nothing in this bill may supersede, replace, negate, or diminish treaty obligations or agreements with Indian tribes. Existing practices and negotiation cooperation between the Border Patrol and the tribes will continue.

It also clarifies what is the purpose of operation control, which is to prevent all unlawful entry into the United States, including entry by terrorists, other unlawful aliens, instruments of terrorism, narcotics, and other contraband through the international land borders of the United States.

There are three reasons why this amendment, indeed, the underlying bill is important. Number 1, a sovereign country controls its own borders. We are not doing that here. We need to.

Number 2, we will never solve our overall immigration issue until we can guarantee that we can, in some way, lower the anger and the rage and the anxiety that is out there. If indeed we can look at our fellow citizens and, with a straight face, say we have control of the border, all of a sudden the ability of solving other problems, some of which are easy and some of which are complex, the ability to do that increases.

And third, and most importantly, the violence against women--the women who are raped along these trails, whose garments are left on these trees as a trophy to the coyote who raped these women, these woman who have absolutely no other source to go, they have no one to complain to, they have no one to ask for protection. This must stop.

The Border Patrol can't stop this practice. Right now, what we're doing is simply putting up signs saying areas are off limits to Americans, but that does not stop this practice. And unless we can give the Border Patrol access to this territory so they can stop this practice, we're not doing anything about it. We are not solving this particular issue.

I'll add one more time. We have talked about the ``drone zone'' in here, which is something, once again, it's cute and inaccurate. This amendment has nothing do with the ``drone zone.'' It does not authorize, nor does it stop drones. It doesn't authorize black helicopters or stop them, or red-headed stepchildren, or illegal Druids coming to this country as well.

But what it does do is allow our professional Border Patrol to have the same rights of access to Federal land that they have on private property and State land. And it says that we will control our border, we will solve our immigration problem, and we will stop the rape trees. We will stop this heinous practice from going forward, and we will do it positively. That's the purpose of this amendment to this title of the bill.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. BISHOP of Utah. The 36 laws that were originally placed were there when Homeland Security asked for those and when Congress agreed to it. It is the precedent. I am lowering it to 16 out of benefit to you.

I have been on the border. I have been on the border, and I have seen the rape trees. This must stop. I have also been on the border to see there are 48 different organizations that have endorsed the underlying bill, including the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers, the National Border Patrol Council, the local Border Patrol Council in Arizona, and the National Association of Police Organizations. Those who work this realize the importance of this, and that's why they are supporting it.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. BISHOP of Utah. Mr. Chairman, I hope I will not take the 5 minutes of this time.

With all due respect for my good friend from Arizona, for whom I have a great deal of admiration, I would emphasize again that the title of this section is National Security and Federal Lands Protection. It does not extend to any other property except those that belong to the Federal Government on our borders. It has a 5-year limitation on it. There is a sunset provision so it can be reviewed. But more importantly, the elements that are in this particular title are there for a reason, there is precedent for them. One hundred miles is what the legal definition of border land actually is. The 36 laws--I'm ready to go back to those. The 36 laws were the laws that were presented by the Department of Homeland Security as those potential laws that could cause them damage, and this Congress agreed to that precedent. Congress established that they could be waived for that specific purpose.

I want to once again tell you what Secretary Napolitano said about this particular issue of border security when she first came into office: The removal of cross-border violators from public lands is a value to the environment.

You want to protect the environment, get the drug cartels and the human traffickers off of that particular area. It is the removal of those violators from public lands that is a value to the environment, as well as to the mission of the land managers, which is once again the 48 groups that talk about and support this. They come from conservation groups, they come from agriculture groups, but more importantly, they come from the Border Patrol agents themselves. Those are the ones who have come forth and testified that they need special ability of having access to this land if we're going to control the border, which is what a sovereign country does.

Mr. Chairman, this is the word of what their responsibilities are. This is what we have told the Border Patrol they have to do: Prevent all unlawful entries into the United States, including entries by terrorists, other unlawful aliens, instruments of terrorism, narcotics, and other contraband through the international land borders of the United States. That's in this title. That's their job. That's what the Border Patrol has requested to do.

All we need to do is give them the tools they need to be able to accomplish that, tools on Federal land that will mirror the tools they have on private and State lands. Let them do their job. They need access to this area to patrol it and to apprehend the bad guys. Give them that opportunity.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. BISHOP of Utah. Let me just say once again, I appreciate the arguments that are given.

When I have been on the border and have been able to talk to the people who work on the border about what they need to protect the border, once again they're telling us that they need the access. The ability to waive these law, these rules, these regulations is what we have done in the past. Congress already did it once before. There is precedent. This is not something that is new, but this is what is definitely needed. This is the right thing to do.

I urge you to reject this particular amendment.

And in all fairness, Mr. Chair, I would like to yield 30 seconds to the gentleman from Arizona so he has a chance to close on his particular amendment.

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