Wednesday, May 21, 2014

N.M. national monument raises concern about law enforcement along border

A top House Republican urged President Obama on Tuesday to ensure Border Patrol agents will have access to rugged and remote mountain ranges along the Mexican border that the president is designating as a national monument. House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, Virginia Republican, said the president’s action could make it more difficult for law enforcement to patrol huge swaths of the border in New Mexico. “Without law enforcement having access to federal lands, drug traffickers, human smugglers and potentially terrorists are able to exploit yet another loophole created by the Obama administration’s lax immigration enforcement,” Mr. Goodlatte said. “As President Obama moves forward with his decision, I urge him and his administration to allow Border Patrol agents to do their job and gain control of our nation’s porous borders.” Mr. Obama will use his executive authority Wednesday to designate nearly a half-million acres in New Mexico as the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. About half that land is expected to be set aside eventually by Congress as wilderness, which would close those areas to vehicles. Dona Ana County Sheriff Todd Garrison said Monday the president’s action will create “a pathway for criminals to get into this country to do their criminal acts.” The New Mexico Sheriffs’ Association also is opposed to the move. The president’s action is raising questions of border security just as he is seeking the help of law enforcement groups to pressure House Republicans to approve comprehensive immigration reform. Mr. Goodlatte challenged the administration’s record of enforcing the borders, saying it has given priority to land preservation. “Documents show that the Departments of Interior and Agriculture are using environmental regulations to prevent the Border Patrol from accessing portions of the 21 million acres along the U.S.-Mexico border and over 1,000 miles of the U.S.-Canada border,” Mr. Goodlatte said in a statement. “Unfortunately, Obama Administration officials have so far prevented Border Patrol agents from securing the border by denying them access to federal lands under the guise of environmental preservation.”...more

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