Last month the Pew Hispanic Center reported that net migration from Mexico into the United States has dropped to zero, with roughly the same number of Mexican citizens heading south across the border as north.
Just a few days earlier the misnamed National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act (HR 1505) was introduced onto the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives by Rob Bishop (R-Utah). It has since been stuffed into the Conservation and Economic Growth Act, and will probably be voted on today. Aimed at stopping the nonexistent flood of immigrants, this bill waives 36 laws on all federal lands within 100 miles of both the northern and southern U.S. borders for all Border Patrol activities.
If it is signed into law bases could be built, roads could be cut, and new border walls could tear through national parks from Glacier to Olympic on the northern border to Big Bend in Texas, as well as national forests, wildlife refuges, and wilderness areas, with no concern for the environment.
Bishop claims that the Border Patrol is incapable of enforcing immigration laws without violating every other law, from the Endangered Species Act to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.
“I want this resolved so border security has the precedence down there,” Bishop has said. “If it means you lose a couple of acres of wilderness, I don’t think God will blame us at the judgment bar for doing that.”
But this bill goes beyond eliminating environmental protections “down there” on the U.S. – Mexico border - it threatens lands and lakes within 100 miles of the Canadian border as well.
Contrary to Bishop’s claim that they need to be above the law, the Border Patrol has not asked for this extreme power, and they have told Congressional researchers that “land management laws have had no effect on Border Patrol’s overall measure of border security.” Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano recently called HR 1505 “unnecessary” and “bad policy.”
Waiving laws will not make our nation any safer, but then Bishop’s bill isn’t really about protecting our borders. Bishop’s targeting of environmental laws simply fits the current Republican zeitgeist. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has attacked environmental regulations and the Environmental Protection Agency as “obstacles to economic growth” that must be “removed,” and Mitt Romney says the Clean Air Act should be rewritten to exclude the regulation of greenhouse gasses. This is simply more of the same, an assault on environmental laws using border security as a convenient Trojan horse.
In a nation of laws we must uphold all laws, not cherry-pick a few and waive the rest.