Environmental Protection versus National Security; Border Patrol Officers Say Other Agencies Inhibit Efforts
Byline: Jerry Seper , THE WASHINGTON TIMES
With Congress vowing to secure the nation's borders as part of an immigration bill that proposes hiring 20,000 new Border Patrol agents, several former immigration officers say border agents have been inhibited in their efforts to patrol the Southwest border by other agencies.
The National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers, along with more than 50 lawmakers, argues that border security has taken a back seat to the environmental concerns of the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management.
Their focus is environmental protection, not national security, and they apply their rules to other government agencies regardless of impact on other missions, the association said in a statement. While on paper the Border Patrol has access to the lands managed by these other agencies, in actual practice their rules denied free access on an as-needed basis.
The group said that access is being impeded not just to vehicles patrolling the border, but generally bars infrastructure such as cameras, sensors, radio towers and landing strips and pads for aircraft in areas distant from the border.
To be controlled effectively, there must be in-depth activity by the Border Patrol extending as deep, in some places, as 100 miles, said the association, whose membership includes several former Border Patrol chiefs and regional directors of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. The group said the lack of access, especially in the wilderness areas along the border, essentially cedes U.S. territory to the ever-more-violent drug smugglers.
Rep. Rob W. Bishop, Utah Republican, has introduced legislation to prohibit the secretaries of Interior and Agriculture from taking action on federal lands within 100 miles of an international land border that impedes border security. The bill would give the Border Patrol access to land under the jurisdiction of the Forest Service, the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management 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 of the United States.
It also would allow Customs and Border Patrol access to federal lands to construct and maintain fences and roads; use vehicles and aircraft to patrol; install, maintain and operate surveillance equipment and sensors; and deploy forward operating bases. …