Border Patrol agents must abandon their vehicles to chase illegal immigrants, drug smugglers and potential terrorists who illegally cross into the United States and onto federal lands that are designated as environmentally sensitive areas.
Legislation passed by the House last week to slash environmental red tape would allow law enforcement to ‚??do the job they are paid to do,‚?Ě said Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), who authored the language.
The measure was part of a package of conservation and jobs legislation that passed the House 232 to 188 on a mostly party-line vote.
‚??When it comes to the Environmental Protection Agency, the American public is well aware of the ability of this federal agency to slow our economy with debilitating regulations,‚?Ě said Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), chairman of the House Resources Committee. ‚??When it comes to our federal lands, which are predominately located in Western states, there is plenty of bureaucracy and red tape to go around.
‚??It doesn‚??t have to take federal spending or taxpayer money to solve these problems. It simply takes Congress making common sense changes in laws and regulations to restore reasonableness, transparency, accountability and sometimes sanity, to the actions of the federal government,‚?Ě Hastings said.
Democrats suggested that Republicans were more interested in rounding up illegal border crossers than they are in protecting the environment. ‚??The border is the excuse, the target is the environment,‚?Ě said Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.).
Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) called the measure a ‚??dangerous overreach.‚?Ě ‚??Environmental laws are not the problem when it comes to guarding the border,‚?Ě Markey said.
Bishop‚??s language gives the Homeland Security Department authority to waive more than a half-dozen environmental laws on 20 million acres of federal land along the southern and northern borders.
Numerous federal classifications including wilderness areas and habitats for endangered species act as an environmental gate, prohibiting the use of motorized vehicles to patrol or apprehend criminals except in emergency situations. As a result, Bishop says, the property becomes a highway for criminals to avoid detection and a sanctuary to commit violent crimes including the rape of female illegal immigrants who are smuggled across the border. ‚??Rape trees‚?Ě mark these crimes where the underwear of victims is hung on the branches as a trophy.
‚??I have been on the border and I have seen the rape trees,‚?Ě Bishop said. ‚??This must stop.‚?Ě
Human Events reported in June 2011 that environmental rules interfered with Border Patrol operations near the Mexican border, due in part to a pond inhabited by pupfish, and the possible presence of other endangered species, including the Chiricahua leopard frog, Mexican spotted owl, lesser long-nosed bat, Pima pineapple cactus and Sonoran Pronghorn antelope.
Ironically, the smugglers and illegal immigrants are trashing the environmentally sensitive areas and putting the species at further risk, say supporters of the measure.
Democrats said the bill was a waste of time and that their counterparts in the Senate have no intention of passing the measure before the November election. ‚??It‚??s a solution in search of a problem,‚?Ě said Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.). ‚??This problem cannot be categorized as illegal aliens fleeing into the wilderness. If (the Border Patrol) is in hot pursuit, they continue, they don‚??t stop.‚?Ě
Republicans say the chase can only continue on foot, unless a Border Patrol officer tracks down a federal land manager to get approval to drive a vehicle into a wilderness area.