Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID) joined Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), Chairman of the House Natural Resources Public Lands and Environment Regulation Subcommittee, and other House leaders today in introducing H.R. 2398, the National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act. This bill would give the U.S. Border Patrol improved access to federal land located on the U.S. border where current federal environmental policies restrict their ability to patrol, deter, and apprehend drug smugglers and human traffickers.
"I'm proud to be an original cosponsor of this common-sense bill which will strengthen both our borders and improve the safety and security of our people," said Rep. Labrador. "For too long, Border Patrol agents have been denied routine access to federal lands because of restrictive environmental policies, allowing these lands to become havens for drug smuggling, human trafficking, and other illegal activities. The environmental policies which are preventing our border security experts from doing their jobs are illogical, destructive, and must come to an end. Our bill will modernize federal law so that U.S. Border patrol agents have the access they need to deter and apprehend those who cross through our federal lands illegally. I appreciate Chairman Bishop's leadership in introducing this bill, and I will do all I can to have it pass through Congress and become the law of the land."
There are more than 20 million acres of U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) land along the southern U.S. Border and over 1,000 miles of the U.S.-Canada border. Current land management policies for these areas restrict the Border Patrol's access in these areas. As a result, federal land areas along the border provide virtually unfettered access to those entering our country illegally.
"Taking up sweeping immigration reform is futile unless we address some of the biggest problems plaguing border security first," said Chairman Bishop. "Right now environmental land management policies are trumping national security efforts. We have basically rolled out the welcome mat for drug cartels on federal lands because environmental policies restrict the U.S. Border Patrol's ability to secure some of the most heavily trafficked areas of the southern border."
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.