Thursday, April 23, 2009

Grijalva Introduces Legislation to Protect and Conserve Public Lands along Border

US Representative Raul Grijalva has introduced legislation which would reverse some of the worst abuses of the Department of Homeland Security's implementation of the Secure Fence Act and the Real ID Act. Below is the press release issued by his office.

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva introduced legislation that will help secure and conserve public and tribal lands along the international land borders of the United States.

The Border Security and Responsibility Act of 2009 will secure and conserve federal public lands along the international land borders of the U.S. and provide the highest protection possible while ensuring that all operations necessary to achieve border security are undertaken.

The legislation will also help mitigate damage to federal and tribal lands from illegal border activity and border enforcement efforts by increasing coordination and planning between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), federal land management agencies and local, state and tribal governments.

The legislation will also correct existing policies and allow flexibility for a local approach to border security, instead of mandating an unrealistic and harmful wall.

“Current policy has driven crossing activity to remote isolated areas along the border which, in Southern Arizona, represent significant public and tribal lands,” said Grijalva. “Many of these lands have suffered extensive environmental degradation as a result of unauthorized activity and border security efforts. This bill is the first step in preserving our unique natural heritage while we protect our borders.”

The Border Security and Responsibility Act of 2009 will:

1. Require the Department of Homeland Security to consult with federal land managers and state, local, and tribal governments in creating a Border Protection Strategy that supports border security efforts while also protecting federal and tribal lands.

2. Provide for flexibility, rather than a “one size fits all” approach, to border security by allowing experts at DHS to decide upon best strategies for border security.

3. Allow land managers, local officials, and local communities to have a say in border security decisions, requiring full public notice and participation.

4. Ensure that laws intended to protect air, water, wildlife, culture, and health and safety are fully upheld.

Under the Bush Administration, the passage and implementation of the Secure Fence Act and REAL ID ignored environmental, health and safety laws that had been in place for decades. The Border Security and Responsibility Act amends the current law, which pursues a “one fence fits all” solution. The legislation ensures that local experts are part of the planning and evaluation of security measures that would be more effective and have a lower impact on the border environment.

“This multi-disciplinary approach is the correct path for addressing a growing crisis in a rapidly changing geopolitical reality,” stated Grijalva. “The Border Security and Responsibility Act will strengthen border security, protect the environment and uphold the health of the border community by allowing all agencies to work together cooperatively.”

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