Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Border Patrol Projects Caught Up for Months in Red Tape, Government Study Shows

Border Patrol agents trying to keep up with the pace of illegal immigration along the southwest border have gotten stuck in a kind of bureaucratic limbo, with a new government report showing federal regulations have stalled projects for months. In one case, it took the Bureau of Land Management almost eight months to issue a permit allowing Border Patrol to move an underground sensor in New Mexico. In another, Border Patrol officials were denied permission to improve maintenance on roads and surveillance in California, forcing the patrol routes north. In another, it took more than four months for the agency to get permission to move "mobile" surveillance in Arizona -- by that time, illegal immigrant traffic had shifted. These anecdotes are included as part of a Government Accountability Office study, a draft version of which was obtained by The report was commissioned to review lawmakers' concerns that environmental and preservation regulations are hampering efforts to secure the border and found that those regulations had in fact limited agents' access to the land they're supposed to patrol. This inter-agency conflict might ordinarily amount to a typical bureaucratic turf war -- but it's gotten more attention in recent years as agents have driven illegal immigrant traffic away from urban crossings and diverted a lot of it into the remote, tough-to-patrol federal land mass that makes up more than 40 percent of the southwest borderland. As a result, large swaths of America's wilderness and park land, hit by a wave of smuggler traffic, have been deemed too dangerous for visitors. Much has been closed off to the public. Border Patrol has nearly doubled its patrol force in the last five years but has run into roadblocks in trying to get better access to the land. According to the GAO report, supervisors at 17 of the 26 federal land stations said their access had been limited over land management laws, "resulting in delays and restrictions in agents' patrolling." Often, this meant they couldn't get permission for routine projects in a "timely manner." New Mexico agents said it could take six months to obtain permission to maintain or improve a road, or move surveillance equipment. In the case of the eight-month delay, the Bureau of Land Management had to take extra time to perform a "historic property assessment." In another case, Border Patrol was prohibited from placing a sensor tower inside Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona because of its status as "wilderness." They had to move the site to a state-owned portion of the monument, an area that gave the tower a smaller range...more

Finally, the governments own study is showing what I and many others having been saying for months: federal lands, especially those designated as wilderness, are an impediment to border patrol activites and provide a safe haven for drug and human traffickers.

I will withold further comment until I receive the final report.

No comments: