Bishop Introduces Bill to Fix Gaps in Border Security on Federal Lands
Today, House National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee Ranking Member Rob Bishop (R-UT)was joined by House Natural Resources Ranking Member Doc Hastings (R-WA) and House Homeland Security Ranking Member Peter King (R-NY) in introducing legislation (H.R. 5016) that will prohibit the current practice of the Department of Interior (DOI) of denying the U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) access to federal lands along the U.S./Mexico border. Denying access to agents has significantly jeopardized security along the border.
In 2007, an Arizona rancher and his wife wrote a letter to Members of Congress to express concern over the growing criminal activity that was taking place in Wilderness areas along the border. In their letter they wrote, “ we are in fear for our lives and safety and health of ourselves and that of our family and friends.” That rancher was Rob Krentz. In late March of this year, Krentz, whose family has been ranching in southern Arizona since 1907, was gunned down by a criminal that entered and exited the U.S. through the San Bernardino Wildlife Refuge (located along the Arizona/New Mexico border).
Photo: A gate leading into the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge contains a lock placed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to prevent access to the lands. Courtesy of the Office of Rep. Rob Bishop.
Congressman Bishop, who recently visited the U.S./Mexico border, has been leading efforts to bring greater focus to rampant drug trafficking and criminal activity occurring on federal lands along the border. The legislation he is sponsoring will ensure the USBP has the access and resources necessary to provide the utmost security throughout the entire border region and to close the gaps that exist on federal lands.
“After seeing firsthand so many signs of illegal activity on our border, including trails cut into federal border lands and the environmental degradation caused by trafficking trains, I requested that Secretary Salazar take immediate action. Despite his recent visit to Arizona, Salazar has repeatedly ignored requests for his attention on this matter and seems to have blown off concerns regarding national security and safety issues,” Bishop added.
National security continues to be jeopardized along the border by denying USBP access to federal border lands. DOI cites environmental concerns as the reason for blocking entry into federal land areas, but the lands they seek to protect are already being damaged and overrun by those coming across the border illegally. Due to the USBP’s lack of access, unpatrolled federal border lands have become a direct and inaccessible artery into the U.S. for drug smuggling, human trafficking, terrorist, arms trafficking and other criminal activity.
“The gravity of the situation must no longer be ignored. This legislation helps ensure that DOI policies no longer enable dangerous criminals to co-opt federal border lands as their drug trafficking highways. What many fail to recognize is that allowing the USBP to apprehend and deter trains of criminal traffickers will not only remedy weaknesses in border security, but also improve the health and vitality of our protected federal lands, which have been severely damaged by years of abuse from drug and human traffickers. National Security and a healthy environment are not mutually exclusive, however with current DOI policies, neither is being accomplished,” Bishop concluded.
Click here to view a fact sheet on the bill