Sunday, June 20, 2010

Border Patrol Navigating Reams of Regulation to Secure Federal Land

Border Patrol agents must navigate a patchwork of environmental regulations dating back decades in order to police for drug cartels, smugglers and illegal immigrants -- often on foot-and-horseback in some of the most vulnerable areas of the southwest border. To unlock the legislative handcuffs, a group of House lawmakers are pushing a bill that would prohibit the Departments of Interior and Agriculture from taking any action that would "impede border security" on public lands. The restrictions on those lands cover numerous laws, rules and interagency agreements, which the Department of Homeland Security has warned are getting in the way of securing the border at a "critical" time. "It's insanity," said bill author Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah. The basis for the restrictions dates back to the Wilderness Act of 1964 which established millions of acres of federal protected land and for the most part barred permanent roads and prohibited motor vehicles, motorboats, aircraft and any other "mechanical transport" from entering. For most casual hikers and backcountry campers, that's not a problem. But as the border has become more porous over the decades, lawmakers say Border Patrol guards have found themselves at a disadvantage as illegal immigrants use the protected lands as a corridor to enter the United States...more

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