Reid's Lame-Duck Lands Bill Threatens Border Security
Washington, D.C. - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is fast-tracking over 100 federal land-acquisition bills for action during the lame-duck session, despite warnings from Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers that Reid's effort, if successful, would harm U.S. efforts to block illegal entry and drug smuggling in border areas.
The omnibus bill includes over 100 federal land-acquisition bills and is expected to come up for a vote this week.
"If passed, the mega-package would buy up and tie up millions of acres of land in over 13 states," said Dana Joel Gattuso, director of the Center for Environmental and Regulatory Affairs at the National Center for Public Policy Research, in a just-released National Policy Analysis paper about the omnibus legislation. "Many of the bills [now in the omnibus] failed to pass because they are considered controversial. In particular, legislation sponsored by Senator Bingaman (D-NM) would designate over 100,000 acres of land at or near the New Mexico-Mexico border as federal wilderness area, increasing the threat of drug smuggling into the U.S. from Mexico."
The package is being considered although the Government Accountability Office is warning that the Border Patrol is losing the fight over illegal entry and drug smuggling in border areas where lands are owned and managed by the federal government.
Furthermore, in a letter quoted by Gattuso, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said wilderness designation such as those in Reid's omnibus can be "detrimental" to border security operations.
Gattuso also notes that the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers has warned that as federal wilderness areas are designated, "the criminal element moves in because the restrictive wilderness or refuge status... effectively prevents all law enforcement from effectively working the area."
Gattuso notes that some Democrats have joined Republicans in expressing concern about Reid's effort. Gattuso calls upon Reid not to rush through "issues of this magnitude that demand and deserve lengthy deliberation and the approval of the American people."
Gattuso's paper, "Border Security Threatened by Lame-Duck Lands Bill," can be read online at http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA616.html.