Today, the House of Representatives approved a legislative package of 14 bills, which included the National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act, authored by Congressman Rob Bishop (UT-01).
The National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act addresses the U.S. Border Patrol's longstanding need to have greater access to some of the most highly trafficked areas within the border region, especially along the southern U.S.-Mexico border.
"The Border Patrol's inability to routinely access the entire border region leaves us not only vulnerable to the trafficking of drugs but also potential terrorists and others who wish to harm our country. With the passage of this legislation the Border Patrol will finally have the access necessary to help us achieve a truly secure border--a sovereign nation should have nothing less," said Congressman Bishop.
There are more than 20 million acres of federal land along the southern U.S. border. Within the 20 million acres are several different classifications of federal land that carry specific restrictions for use and access. As an example, wilderness areas do not permit wheeled or motorized access. Due to the various restrictions on access, the Border Patrol is limited in their ability to adequately patrol, monitor, deter, and apprehend drug traffickers and human smugglers. As a result, criminal drug organizations have capitalized on the Border Patrol's limited access, and have laid claim to select trails leading through public lands. These trails offer them virtually unmitigated access to transport drugs and humans into the United States.
Specifically the National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act:
· Prevents the Secretaries of 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 which the U.S. Border Patrol deems necessary to the fulfillment of their mission
· Allows the U.S. Border Patrol to construct and maintain roads and place surveillance equipment in strategic areas that will help facilitate the detection and apprehension of criminals.
· Allows the Department of Homeland Security to waive 16 specific measures that currently limit the U.S. Border Patrol's ability to secure the entire border region.