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Distilling The Facts About Securing The Southwestern Border With Mexico Can Be Tricky


What is the truth about the ongoing battles over securing the Southwestern border against drug runners and illegal aliens?

There is no doubt that there are serious issues along the U.S. border with Mexico. A ranger at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Kris Eggle, was shot and killed in August 2002 by members of a Mexian drug cartel, and a prominent Arizona rancher was killed in March 2010, possibly by an illegal immigrant. 

But gauging the success, or lack thereof, that the U.S. Border Patrol is having can be difficult depending on who is talking.

U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop's continued targeting of environmental laws -- the Endangered Species Act, the Wilderness Act, the National Environmental Policy Act -- he maintains are preventing the Border Patrol from securing the Southwestern border raise conflicting accounts and even accusations that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security sees the issue as a "cash cow" not to be corralled.

Most recently, the Utah Republican solicited testimony from individuals who claim the Department of Homeland Security has no interest in securing the border because it would greatly diminish its budget.

Contrasting those positions offered at an April 15 hearing chaired by Rep. Bishop were officials from the Border Patrol, Interior Department, and U.S. Government Accountability Office who not only said environmental laws are not impeding efforts, but that success is being met in stemming both the flow of illegals and the environmental degredation they've caused.

Coming away from that hearing, Rep. Bishop in his public statements dismissed the viewpoints of the Border Patrol, Interior Department, and Government Accountability Office.

It is exceptionally clear after hearing today’s testimony that significant limitations continue to be placed on the U.S. Border Patrol’s access to some of the most highly trafficked areas along the border," he said. "Environmental policies cannot take precedent over the safety and security of all Americans and that is exactly what is occurring today. In order for the Border Patrol to be as effective as possible in deterring and apprehending criminals they need to have routine access to our federal lands. The reality is that many parts of the U.S. along the southern border region are too dangerous for Americans to enter because they are overrun with drug traffickers and human smugglers. This is unacceptable and I plan to ensure that law enforcement is no longer hindered from doing their jobs to keep Americans safe.”

Whether Congressman Bishop is foremost concerned with border security, or sees the issue as a tool to undo some of the country's key environmental laws, is debateable. But the wide range of opinions over the security of the border can at times make it seem as if two different situations are being discussed.

"It would have been impossible to win World War II if the military had been forced to comply with current laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act and dozens of other laws enacted by Congress after World War II," testified James Chilton, Jr., an Arizona rancher whose land runs along the border. "The construction of thousands of military bases, airfields, port facilities, training facilities and ammunition storage areas inside the United States would have been delayed for years. There is no way the war would have been won if the military had been obliged to complete endless Environmental Impact Statements, fund or carry out mitigation projects and suffer through years of radical environmental corporations’ lawsuits and appeals. We must not tie up our national defense at the border with red tape.

"National Security demands that drug traffickers, terrorists and undocumented aliens be prevented from entering the United States at the border. Currently, on our ranch these people often travel 10 to 20 miles inside our country before the Border Patrol attempts to apprehend them," he continued. "We have heard that, a few years ago, the Border Patrol found seven backpacks near our ranch which contained Yemeni passports. Were the owners of the backpacks tourists or terrorists? We understand that significant numbers of persons apprehended--the ones who are caught--are not just Mexican citizens looking for work. The entrants include others with various motives. We strongly believe the Border Patrol must CONTROL THE BORDER AT THE BORDER."

From the viewpoint of George Zachary Taylor, who helped found the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers, government agencies have no deep interest in winning the battle because they'd lose funding.

"From a strictly political and agency management point of view, why would (U.S. Commissioner of Customs and Border ProtectionCommissioner Alan) Bersin or (DHS) Secretary (Janet) Napolitano want to solve the illegal immigration situation in the United States and jeopardize a significant part of their budget, especially when they see the escalating situation as an opportunity to justify increased funding?" Mr. Taylor asked in his testimony. "Managerially speaking, to DHS, isn't illegal immigration a 'cash cow'? Without illegal immigration, how large would the DHS budget be?"

Against those sentiments, Rep. Bishop and others on his subcommittee heard testimony from agency officials who said environmental laws are not impeding them and that successes are being counted.

"While there is still work to be done, every key measure shows we are making significant progress along the Southwest border. Border Patrol apprehensions have decreased 36 percent in the past two years, and are less than a third of what they were at their peak," testified Ronald Vitiello, deputy chief of the Border Patrol. "We have matched these decreases in apprehensions with increases in seizures of cash, drugs, and weapons. These numbers demonstrate the effectiveness of our layered approach to security. Violent crime in border communities has remained flat or fallen in the past decade, and some of the safest communities in America are at the border."

Anu K. Mittal, the director for Natural Resources and Environment at the Government Accountability Office, testified that a 2006 memorandum of understanding between the various agencies -- Border Patrol, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and Interior Department -- has greatly helped improve Border Patrol access to federal lands along the border.

"For example, Border Patrol and land managers in Arizona used the 2006 memorandum of understanding to set the terms for reporting Border Patrol off-road vehicle incursions in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, as well as for developing strategies for interdicting undocumented aliens closer to the border in the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and facilitating Border Patrol access in the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge," the GAO official testified. "In addition, we found that guidance provided by the 2006 memorandum of understanding has facilitated local agreements between the Border Patrol and land management agencies. For example, for the Coronado National Forest in Arizona, Border Patrol and the Forest Service developed a coordinated strategic plan that sets forth conditions for improving and maintaining roads and locating helicopter landing zones in wilderness areas, among other issues."

The hearing was just the latest effort by the Utah Republican to raise congressional opposition to the ESA, the Wilderness Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act when it comes to securing the Southwestern border.

The congressman's claims about the barriers environmental regulations have in the Border Patrol's activities, however, have been largely dismissed in the past in two GAO studies. In one, which the Republican specifically requested, the GAO found that while these regulations at times led to delays and restrictions for Border Patrol agents in accessing federal lands, "22 of the 26 Border Patrol stations reported that the border security status of their area of operation has not been affected by land management laws."

A far greater problem, the agents-in-charge told the GAO investigators, is the lay of the land in the Southwest. And while "four patrol agents-in-charge reported that delays and restrictions negatively affected their ability to achieve or maintain operational control, they have either not requested resources to facilitate increased or timelier access or have had their requests denied by senior Border Patrol officials, who said that other needs were greater priorities for the station or sector."

While the second GAO report, issued in November, pointed to a continued lack of coordination among the various agencies tasked with securing the border, in mid-January a multi-agency endeavor, Operation Trident Surge, seemed to show those problems were, if not in the past, being addressed.

“Operation Trident Surge was a 60-day joint patrol operation between Border Patrol and the DOI, and that just wrapped up on March 1," John Wessels, director of the Park Service's Intermountain Region, told the Traveler on Friday. "That was a significant demonstration of what a unified command approach to Southwest border operations looks like. We had Park Service law enforcement officers engaged in that.”

During that two-month operation agents apprehended drug runners and human smugglers, heightened law-enforcement visibility on the landscape, and flew aerial reconnaissance and patrol missions, among other tasks, according to Park Service officials.

Mr. Wessels said the operation "was a genuine, positive success in terms of that ability to pull together in a unifed way law enforcement rangers, Border Patrol agents, and others to work toward common purposes, whether it’s securing the border for employee visitor safety or resource protection.”

At the same time, the regional director acknowledged that 55 percent of the 330,688.86 acres that lie within Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument currently remain closed to the public due to safety issues.

"That’s the only park that has that kind of closure," he noted. "I’ll tell you, our law enforcement staff there, working in collaboration with Border Patrol, are reclaiming the backcountry and making it safe for visitors and staff. So I think that’s something that we’re focusing on and making decent progress on, because of the collaboration with Border Patrol.”

Are things perfect along the border? No, said Mr. Wessels. But to suggest that the government agencies are prolonging the effort simply to keep the money flowing is " a cynical approach to the whole Southwst Border issue," he said.

"I think the bottom line is all of us would like to have a secure border, and all of us would like to have (natural) resources that are preserved and protected into perpetuity," the Park Service official said.

“One other point," he added. "The bottom line is that our law enforcement rangers throughout the border parks, and I think all of our staff who work down there, for those folks who are in harm’s way, are commiting themselves to resource protection, sometimes at personal risk. And I think that perspective that this is just something that we’re doing to keep the money coming in is tremendously disrespectful to the people who are committing their lives to preserving and protecting the national parks."

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imtnbike points out a few ironies in border management, but there are others.  Consider the billions upon billions of dollars we have spent on drug enforcement in the US, and yet it is the continuing demand for drugs in the US that makes the drug cartels in Mexico so prosperous and makes our border areas, in and outside our protected areas, so dangerous.  Also, the income disparity between the two countries means that there will always be those who will risk capture and detention in an effort to feed their families and educate their children. 

Those who think that sealing off the border with a fence or undoing every environmental law on the books to give the border patrol more access are fooling themselves.  This is not a law enforcement problem.  This is a social issue that will not be resolved until we get at the root causes: drug demand in the US and widespread poverty in Mexico and other areas in Central America. 

I have to smile when I hear people say that we ought to deport every illegal person currently in the US, now estimated to be between 11 and 12 million people.  That would be an undertaking beyond the scope of all our law enforcement and military resources.  As imtbike says, it is time for a serioius discussion of what to do about this problem instead of holding hearings on issues that are peripheral to the real problems.  But that would require something other than soundbites and many of our elected representatives aren't very good at anything but soundbites.


I see this has turned into a general debate about United States immigration law and policy. I'd like to get back to some specifics about public lands on the border.

First, it may interest people to know that the Otay Mountain Wilderness in San Diego County is one of the few in which you can legally drive a private car or ride a bicycle right past a sign that announces the Wilderness. Why is that? Because that road, the Otay Mountain Truck Trail, bisects the Wilderness and is not part of it. The reason it's not is that the preserve is a few hundred yards from the Mexican border (though it rises to about 3600 feet atop Otay Mountain) and is always swarming with Border Patrol agents and National Guard personnel who move about in various types of motor vehicles. I mountain bike it at times (again, legally) and it can be fun to chat with the gun-toting border control personnel.

Second, in federal lands in Washington state and probably also Idaho, Montana, etc., even in Wilderness areas, the government has used machinery to carve a strip, perhaps 30 feet wide, along the 49th parallel (i.e., the border with Canada). I bet it has also installed weight-sensitive sensors, microphones, cameras, and the like, even in those remote areas. I don't know of any strip carved along the Mexican border, but I bet the electronic detection devices are in place in Mexican-border Wilderness areas and other public lands.

For the foregoing reasons, and the reasons mentioned about Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, the Coronado National Forest, and the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, I doubt that Wilderness and/or National Park status have much effect on border law enforcement.

I would, however, note the irony that riding a bicycle remains prohibited in federal Wilderness areas thanks to agency misunderstandings of the Wilderness Act of 1964, and yet, as Kurt reports, " 'Border Patrol and the Forest Service developed a coordinated strategic plan that sets forth conditions for improving and maintaining roads and
locating helicopter landing zones in wilderness areas, among other issues.' " Typical Wilderness ironies: roads for motor vehicles and helicopter landing zones yes, bicycles no; horse and packstock trains that rip up trails, yes; faint bicycle tire tracks, no. (But that's another subject!)

Someone above commented on this point in Kurt's article: "the regional director acknowledged that 55 percent of the 330,688.86 acres that lie within Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument currently remain closed to the public due to safety issues." Yes, it is unfortunate that illegal immigration and/or narcotics trafficking (perhaps the latter more than the former) has caused this situation. I would only point out, however, that parts of many major American cities are also effectively off-limits because of safety issues. There are parts of San Francisco I would never venture into. Too dangerous.

Rep. Bishop and all others in Congress should be focusing on comprehensive immigration reform, not using this 800-pound gorilla as a device to accomplish other goals without directly addressing it. In the process, they continue to inflame, polarize and confound the issue, making it a third rail that no politician has the guts to address.

Sorry Rick, a lot more reality in what Brittanicus brings to the conversation than what this admin. is pushing.  The last four Presidential elections (and mid-term candidates) I've ask myself of each candidate what "WOULDN'T" each candidate do to get what "he" wants (at the expense of the country).  I thought Clinton was at the limit of "nothing he wouldn't do" but this guy......the Anti-Christ could learn something from.  Pretty scary stuff if you've worked all your life and have something to show for it or if you'd like to EVER have anything resembling the American Dream work ethic.  I'm not going for it.So, here we are.........

I hear you Random Walker, lol!
If you want to continue the trend we're ALL screwed in more ways than we can imagine!

Brittanicus--You should immediately move to Arizona and get yourself elected to the state legislature.   They sure need more members who think like you do.

Dear White People,
Don't you just hate immigrants?
Native Americans


the 1986 Immigration Control
and Reform Act, who has ever been in power has lied to the US people? 
Just  enough laws have been passed, to make it seem that 
President  Obama, George Bush back to Ronald Reagan, has promised to
secure fully the border, to enforce immigration laws, but truthfully
serious as ever been done? All the laws enacted, were made to be
underfunded still leaving access to cheap labor for Republicans and
more votes
for liberals and Democrats; legal or illegal. E-Verify was nearly
killed by
Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and the true 2006 Secure Fence Act, less than a
6 months
later Texas Republican Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn
pushed for
"flexibility to choose other options instead of fencing, if needed."
Politicians adamantly vowed to keep America safe. The law
specifically called
for "at least 2 layers of reinforced fencing, topped with concertina
barbed razor wire with the installation of additional physical
barriers, patrol
roads, lighting, cameras and sensors" at five exact regions of border
totaling approximately 700 miles.

Six months after passage of the Secure Fence Act, the border fence
initially planned to be 700 miles, had shrunk to around 370 miles. The
so-called Border fence shows utter incompetence or very strong
reluctance to keep the border—CLOSED—no matter the consequences to the
people? The illegal alien invasion could be cut to a trickle, by
constructing the double layer border fences as originally commissioned.
Then adding 5000 military of either National Guardsman or US Army along
the along the fence perimeter, saving billions of dollars in the
interior of America.


has changed, just the majority of the people overseeing the border. But
we have a choice now. The usual Rino's and the Arch Liberals, hiding
beneath the cloak of Democrats, are not fully in charge anymore. It's
impossible to count the millions of Americans who have turned to the
National and local TEA PARTY, hoping to save America from the greed and
political power brokers. The criminals are still crossing the border,
where there are hundreds of miles of no fence. Open areas of land, where
the US Border Patrol are not allowed to enter, without permission from
the US government. Packing AK 47, ordinary illegal peons are forced a
gunpoint to carry drugs for the Cartels, or are engineering new routes
for illegal immigrants to enter our country. Even some of the regions
inside America are prohibited land, because of the dangers of
confrontation with criminal aliens.

The interior of our nation has
become an infestation of foreign nationals, stealing jobs, stealing
education from our own children, stealing Medicaid from our own
impoverished people. They are stealing hundreds of billions of dollars
annually in public entitlements, in unemployment benefits in some
states, in workers compensation. They come here ready to conceive their
foothold babies, so they can take advantage of citizen subsidies. They
cross the border or fly in to take advantage of our mandated health care
system. Then we wonder while our national debt of 14.5 trillion dollars
is still mounting? Continually--each day we hear of illegal aliens
drunk, mowing down pedestrians, homicides, kidnappings, home invasions,
assaults, child molestations and other heinous criminal acts. Our jails
and prisons are overflowing, because the Dems and Republicans are
refusing to seal the border tight and therefore they are to blame for
the daily acts of terror happening across America.


We need a uniform plan to
hire the highest skilled, that are not available in this nation’s
workforce. These will be skilled newcomers who will not fall upon the US
taxpayer, to pay their way. With the terrible gloomy picture of a 14
Trillion deficit bearing down on US taxpayers, with an unceasing
movement of economic illegal aliens slipping past our borders, we are in
a very poor State of affairs. Foothold families with 14th Amendment
citizenship for their children are one of the most expenditure befalling
this nation. No real dollar numbers really exist, except for the
statement of Los Angeles City manager, Michael Antonovich “Illegal
immigration continues to have a catastrophic impact on Los Angeles
County taxpayers,”. “The total cost for illegal immigrants to County
taxpayers exceeds $1 billion a year – not including the millions of
dollars for education.” Any form of Amnesty in no matter what form it
comes in, is an automatic magnet for the indigent of foreign countries
and this must desist. The TEA PARTY will oppose or rescind any laws,
contrary to the "Rule of Law", which includes Volume Immigration reform,
Sanctuary states, Dream Acts and Chain Migration. ITS EASY TO FIND THE


Under Obama's
presidency and his Leftist henchman or the upper echelon of Republican
leadership, the push for mass amnesty will continue. Every American who
sees this as a threat to over population, absolute insane expenditures,
overcrowded schools, health care any number of major problems foreseen
in our future should join the TEA PARTY. The TEA PARTY numbers now are
in the tens of millions and still climbing. People are seeing this
political party as the only possible release from the grip of the
Liberals and Rino's. Its truthful challenge is Limited Federal
Government, Our Individual Freedoms, Our Personal Responsibility,
Markets that are free, but fair and Returning Political Power to the
States and the People.

Attn: Whether in fact billionaire Donald Trump is running, he is
bring up some major points of interest to the American people, that
other candidates stay clear off? Trump is a bit of an egotist, but he
loves his country and owes no favors to lobbyists or criminal money
brokers. That if this country, has more oil and natural gas than
anywhere on Mother Earth, why are we paying $4.00 or perhaps $6.00
dollars in our near future. Oil--we aided Saudi Arabia when Iraq
attacked the country during the GULF WAR--what do we have to show for
it, dead girl and boy GI's,  and now they are disrupting America, but
cutting back on supplies. Drill in Anwar Alaska, The Gulf and wherever
it is available. To--HXXX with the environmentalists! Why are we
subservient to the environmentalists, which are upset because of the
partial border fence that is disrupting wild life, but concealing the
hills of debris and filth left behind by decades of illegal aliens
crossing onto our soil? This year from our growing massive deficit, we
owe China $300 billion dollars in just interest, when once they were
the lender? This country must close of the purse to the Lefts Obama
administration, no matter how painful as we are currently carrying the
financial burden of foreign governments and their people.

NAFTA and CAFTA have been
poorly negotiated, just as if our trade representatives instead of
working for America were secretly in the employ of China, Mexico, and
India and others. Currently we are cutting our own throat by buying
cheap inferior products and killing our own industries. Thousands of
American companies have moved across the border or abroad and we are
buying the tax free goods, with no penalties. In many cases our
government has given American firms incentives to move overseas, while
companies around the country have closed down, with the loss of millions
of jobs. Have you even noticed, it’s almost impossible to buy something
Made in the USA? Listen to Donald Trump, because out of the bunch of
potential candidates, he is the only one that is telling us the raw

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