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Expert says change to federal land designation in New Mexico ‘a gift to the drug cartels’

Screen shot from 'Hidden Cameras on the Border' shows litter and trash in areas along the border. The video below is part of a miniseries; the entire series can be viewed at the Center for Immigration Studies. The link is embedded in this photo.

An expert with the Center for Immigration Studies says S. 1689, ‘The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Wilderness Act,’ placed on the US Senate calendar in September will “severely curtail” the US Border Patrol’s “ability to operate…” Janice Kephart, Director of National Security Policy at CIS, issued a memorandum about the proposed Act. The memo is titled, “A Gift to the Drug Cartels.” 

The Act, introduced by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and co-sponsored by Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), establishes a wilderness designation for property that includes 25 miles of federal land in Dona Ana County on the New Mexico border. The land is currently designated ‘public use.’

Kephart wrote that she undertook an “in depth examination of current law and policy,” concluding that even though the bill’s goal is to “support legitimate environmental conservation,” the Act, if passed, “would leave the Border Patrol with little ability and little incentive to do its job.”

Kephart included in her memorandum comments from an official with the union representing more than 12,000 Border Patrol agents. T. J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, said, “Obviously the impact of the [Wilderness] policy is severe on our operations. When you can’t drive in those areas, it makes it impossible to patrol and enforce the law, and it transforms it into a sanctuary for illegal aliens.”

Wilderness areas are governed by severe restrictions. In some areas law enforcement operations are very limited, enabled only when the officers are “in ‘hot pursuit’ of known, real-time illegal activity.” But Kephart also points out that natural areas are often damaged by illegal activity.

Kephart writes, “To operate in wilderness areas requires tedious bureaucratic requests to the Department of Interior. Operating bases are not permitted. In addition, once land is labeled ‘wilderness,’ the Border Patrol must pay mitigation fees for repairing land ‘harmed’ while in the pursuit of illegal activity. Despite the fees, this does not permit greater use of the lands. Instead, every specific task or operational strategy the Border Patrol considers requires approval processes that, in general, prevent timely and effective operations. As a result of the legal barriers that a wilderness designation brings, the Border Patrol loses both incentive and the ability to work on such lands. For example, low-level flights are of minimal value if Border Patrol agents can only act on what they see if they can assure their Interior Department colleagues afterwards that the activity they acted on was a crime or rescue. In addition, the Border Patrol has to be willing to incur mitigation fees. The cartels know this, and they are already chomping at the bit for another American welcome mat.”

Kephart produced a mini-documentary series ‘Hidden Cameras.’ The series provides an unflinching and disturbing look at the federal government’s lack of control over areas along the border.

Kephart concluded in her memorandum: “While there is no doubt that the incentive for changing a public use designation to a wilderness designation is to support legitimate environmental conservation, on today's borderlands such a designation will assuredly result in that area’s destruction, as acknowledged by the Department of Interior itself in lengthy studies on the impact of illegal activity on refuges such as Organ Pipe National Monument and Buenos Aires National Refuge in Arizona.”

Restrictions put in place by federal agencies sometimes have a very negative impact on national security by creating obstacles for law enforcement. Apparently those who introduced S. 1689 are unaware of conditions and practices on the land they seek a more restrictive classification for. (Filed by Kay B. Day/Oct. 22, 2010)

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Our organization has been elevating this issue for several years. We have a significant collection of information, articles and videos on this issue. Please see our website for more on this important issue.


October 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPFPOWH
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