Wednesday, August 6, 2014



Note: Another look at border issues from Homeland Security Today. Think about subscribing.
Yet another disaster inflicted on the West by washington dc. Those living and working on the ground absolutely disagree with "management".
"This vast area along the US/Mexico border in Arizona is now a haven for criminals,"

Border Security Concerns Linger Over New Mexico National Monument Designation
By: Anthony Kimery, Editor-in-Chief
08/05/2014 ( 8:03am)

On May 21, President Obama designated a new national monument area in southern New Mexico, the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, which comprises 500,000 acres near the US-Mexico border, half of which will be set aside as "wilderness."

The designation ignited heated debate among supporters of the designation and opponents who say environmental and other regulations that come with the designation will prevent Border Patrol from conducting border enforcement operations within the Organ Mountains area.

The 180 miles of New Mexico's southern border are designated as High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas by the Department of Justice.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and fellow Republicans quickly decried the designation, saying it will impair Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) abilities to enforce drug-trafficking and human smuggling in the area, although Border Patrol headquarters in Washington, DC said "This designation will in no way limit our ability to perform our important border security mission, and in fact provides important flexibility as we work to meet this ongoing priority."

Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and New Mexico law enforcement authorities said Border Patrol activities are allowed and unaffected by a monument designation.

However, Border Patrol agents, CBP officers and Southwest border law enforcement officials in recent years have complained that border enforcement activities continue to be impeded and delayed on federal lands because of a variety of regulations and environmental restrictions on use of the lands.

At a hearing last month on Obama's executive proclamation designating the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks a National Monument and its implications for border security convened by House Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency Chairman Jeff Duncan (R-SC), 17-year Border Patrol agent Brandon Judd, who also is President of the National Border Patrol Council, and 14-year Doña Ana County, New Mexico Sheriff Todd Garrison, who also is chairman of the Southwest Border Sheriffs' Association, told the subcommittee earfuls of concerns about the border security threats they fear will emanate from this latest wilderness designation.

The President's designation of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks a National Monument "ignored legislation introduced in both chambers of Congress, which had buy-in and support from a broad coalition of state and local stakeholders and constituencies. Specifically, Rep. Steve Pearce introduced HR 995 which would have established an area in the Organ Mountains as a national monument, while granting law enforcement and other emergency personnel 'unfettered access' to the monument," Duncan said, noting that Pearce's "bill had letters of support from the Governor of New Mexico, the Las Cruces Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Western Heritage Alliance, Dona Ana Soil and Water Conservation District, Mesilla Valley Sportsmen's Alliance, the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers, and I could go on."

But "Instead of allowing the legislative process to proceed," Duncan said, "the President ignored the concerns of state and local law enforcement, ranchers, sportsmen and others and chose to designate the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks area a monument with the stroke of a pen. Due to the President's designation, the US Border Patrol, as well as, state and local law enforcement officers will be prevented from having full access to nearly 500,000 acres of land near the Mexican border. The Border Patrol must now comply with the requirements of several federal land management laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act, Wilderness Act and Endangered Species Act -- some of which will limit access to the monument except for on-foot or horseback."

Continuing, Duncan said, "Absent exigent circumstances such as an emergency or active pursuit of suspects, the Border Patrol will need to coordinate federal land management agencies when agents undertake operations, such as maintaining roads and installing surveillance equipment, on federal lands. According to Border Patrol, a 2006 memorandum of understanding between the Departments of Homeland Security, Agriculture,and the Interior provides the necessary guidance for its activities on federal lands. However, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report from 2010 showed that this approach resulted in delays and restrictions of Border Patrol's monitoring and patrolling operations. Given that we are facing a major crisis along our southwest border, any decision that creates yet additional vulnerability is unacceptable."

"Human and drug smugglers have used the area for smuggling in the past. The Doña Ana County Sheriff's Office has apprehended drug smugglers, confiscated stolen cars used for human and drug traffickers and rescued injured individuals left by their smugglers," Duncan said, adding that, "Due to the designation of the national monument, local law enforcement and the Border Patrol will be restricted to the few paved-surface roads, none of which traverse the entire 500,000 acres. The designation also prohibits the use of all terrain vehicles off of paved-surface roads. The lack of roads throughout and access to all federal lands of the monument creates a potential vulnerability for criminals and others to go unchecked. As a result, this newly designated national monument is practically an invitation to drug-runners and human smugglers, as if they even needed one. And I have not even mentioned the possibility that those who would seek to harm us including vicious drug cartels, transnational gangs and terrorist groups like Hezbollah or others could try to breach our sovereignty in order to carry out possibly heinous acts."

Duncan said, "It's critical for Border Patrol and state and local law enforcement to work together to determine how they will reduce the likelihood that this area becomes a sanctuary for these groups. In addition, despite the good intentions of trying to protect important environmental areas, this designation may have the opposite effect of harming this land. I doubt seriously that smugglers will protect it from pollution and those patrolling will have less access to help prevent such abuse.

Brandon Judd, a 17-year Border Patrol agent and president of the National Border Patrol Council, explained that "Two things need to be in place for border security. The first is sufficient manpower in the way of trained Border Patrol Agents in a given area of operation. The second is the ability to deploy a full suite of border security technology. This includes seismic sensors, cameras, communication equipment, fencing and even aircraft. Currently, about 40 percent of the 1,900 mile southwest border is owned by the federal government. Border patrol Agents need access to the land to track and find illegal aliens and narcotics smugglers. However, our ability to access federal lands has been varied and the level of cooperation we receive from the Departments of Interior and Agriculture has been dependent of the attitude and resources of individual land managers."

Judd said, "As a law enforcement officer, I am fully cognizant that we are a nation of laws. The 16,500 Border Patrol agents know that there are numerous environmental regulations governing access to federal land. However, a balance must be struck between border security and the requirements for environmental protection required under the National Environmental Policy Act, the Wilderness Act and the Endangered Species Act. Several negotiations ultimately led to a 2006 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Interior and DHS that resulted in improved access and better inter-agency cooperation in more recent years."

"However," Judd told the subcommittee, "the Government Accountability Office found in 2011 that about half of the Border Patrol stations that are assigned to patrol federal lands experienced delays, some lasting more than 6 months, in accessing USDA and Interior land. This kind of delay is unacceptable and its impact on Border Patrol operations are real."

Offering his perspective on how to fix this problem, Judd said, The first is that it has been suggested that Border Patrol be allowed to use its own funds to conduct any environmental assessments needed, as required under various environmental regulations. In theory, I support this, but understand that under sequestration we have five percent less manpower on the border than we did last year. In addition, we do not have enough money for gasoline and we have resorted to agents riding three to a vehicle instead of patrolling individually as we have always done to maximize coverage. This is the budgetary reality we are in today. I would not support funding being diverted from manpower to conduct environmental assessments."

The second option, Judd epressed, "is that USDA and Interior land managers need to better balance the impact the Border Patrol's presence has on federal land against the potential impact from illegal immigration and narcotics smuggling. We are often told that no access to federal land is possible due to environmental concerns. However, Border Patrol Agents go onto federal land with the single purpose of tracking illegal aliens. We try to accomplish this mission as quickly and as efficiently as we can, with as little disturbance to the environment as possible. I have personally seen from my time in Arizona how pristine landscapes can be quickly destroyed after illegal encampment, covered in trash and waste."

"What will be the impact of this National Monument designation on border security?" Judd asked. "The honest answer is that I do not know. That will largely depend on the attitude of the monument's land manger, whether he or she has the proper resources to respond to Border Patrol's requests, and whether this committee will hold the Department of Interior (DOI) accountable.

Doña Ana County Sheriff Todd Garrison told the subcommittee that, based on his nearly 15 years of experience policing the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks area, "Unfortunately -- and in my opinion -- the safety and welfare of the people in our part of the country is at risk" because of the President's designation of the mountainous region as a national monument.

Garrison said he believes "this designation is a very real threat, not only to what we are doing, but to our national security and the safety of the public."

"In 2007, in response to an increase in cross-border criminal activity, the Doña Ana County Sheriff's Office created a task force dedicated to regular patrols of nearly 51 miles in Doña Ana County that skirt the US/Mexico border," he told lawmakers, noting that "It is a rugged, remote area that is extremely difficult to patrol. The conditions in that part of the desert are harsh on both personnel and equipment. One of our most valuable assets at our disposal is Operation Strongwatch, a mobile 'eye in the sky' surveillance unit with night vision, GPS-position tracking and a six-mile camera range that has the capability to take both still photos and video recordings."

Garrison said, "This task force has apprehended and documented several examples of what I've referred to as criminal border activity. We have intercepted mules, or individuals who use themselves as cargo carriers to transport illegal drugs from Mexico to the United States. Our interdiction teams have made significant busts, arresting suspects who utilize the remote areas of our county because they think they are the roads less traveled. They use whatever they can to get the job done -- if not on their own person, disguised in bags or in hidden compartments of their vehicles. Aside from bringing drugs across the border, these transnational networks are also moving human cargo. Sometimes we discover the bodies of those who fell victim to the relentless elements of the desert. Sometimes we just find evidence that they've been there, dumping their supplies along the way and trading out traceable footwear for crude carpet shoes that allow them to go undetected through the desert."

"All of this activity happens in the very area that is now federally-protected at a cost to national security -- known as the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument," Garrison said.

Garrison went on to point out that the Obama administration "placed this project on priority status in 2009," and that, "Twice, New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich brought the proposition to the people of Doña Ana County and the people rejected the idea. Twice legislation was introduced in Congress and twice it was voted down. Congressman Steve Pearce introduced legislation to protect the Organ Mountains -- which I completely supported -- but the two senators went around the Organ Mountains Bill and straight to the President to over-rule the will of the people by deception to create the monument."

"This vast area along the US/Mexico border in Arizona is now a haven for criminals," Garrison said. "So much [so] that signs greet park visitors warning them of the dangers that lurk in these federally-protected lands. Although the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona is open to the public, sightseeing and travel are heavily discouraged due to active drug smuggling, human trafficking and armed criminals within the federally-protected lands. This area sees much of the same cross-border activity that Doña Ana County does, but now on a much bigger scale because of the federal protections US government has given it. It's now caught the attention of the one faction of international commerce that needs minimally-patrolled areas to conduct their business -- the Mexican cartels."

"The average person doesn't understand the very real -- and very dangerous -- implications of a national monument designation on the border," Sheriff Garrison said. "By protecting this land by way of a national monument, we have essentially exposed the people of Doña Ana County and the rest of the nation to the pitfalls of criminal activity along the border, and this designation flies in the face of what the US government is already doing to secure the border -- adding more Border Patrol agents along the US/Mexico border, and pumping millions of dollars in federal grant money to local law enforcement agencies like the Doña Ana County Sheriff's Office to put more patrols in the area to mitigate criminal activity."

For years, the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Southern Arizona has been a human and drug smuggling corridor, officials admit. In 2002, Park Ranger Kris Eggle was killed by drug smugglers. In the Chiricahua National Monument north of Douglas, Arizona, last year a Park Service employee was bludgeoned with a rock by a drug smuggler and nearly died, then stole her vehicle. He was arrested the next day for drug smuggling.

Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument advocate Marc Rosenblum, deputy director of the US Immigration Policy Program at the Migration Policy Institute, told lawmakers that "there's broad, bipartisan congressional consensus in favor of creating an Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks national monument," and that "What is in dispute is how much land should be protected."

"A second set of questions concerns what type of access Customs and Border Protection and other federal, state and local agencies should have to protected areas for law enforcement purposes," Rosenblum said, conceding that, "Historically, some border enforcement operations on certain federal lands have been compromised because the DOI, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and other federal land managers prioritize conservation and their own core missions over the Department of Homeland Security's law enforcement goals. In an effort to remedy this, DHS and DOI, along with the Department of Agriculture, signed a series of MOUs between 2006 and 2009 that established policies and procedures for inter-agency coordination on federal lands."

Rosenblum said, "Under the proclamation issued by President Obama, CBP access to the new Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument would be governed by these existing MOUs."

A Senate bill would supplement the MOUs by explicitly permitting CBP to conduct certain specified law enforcement activities within parts of the protected area, while a House version of the Senate bill would allow any federal, state or local law enforcement personnel to have unfettered access to the entire monument for all types of law enforcement activities.

"How large should the monument be, and what type of access should CBP and other law enforcement agencies have to the protected areas?" Rosenblum asked. "The answers to these questions depend on how preservation and public access to this area are valued, as well as how we assess the severity of border threats in this region."

Rosenblum said "southern New Mexico is not characterized by particularly acute border threats. The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region falls in the middle of the Border Patrol's El Paso Sector, which is generally seen as a Border Patrol success story. Between the early 1980s and the early '90s, an average of more than 230,000 migrants per year were apprehended in the El Paso Sector. In 1994, Border Patrol Sector Chief Silvestre Reyes initiated Operation Blockade, moving a large number of agents and infrastructure up to the border line. Apprehensions fell by two-thirds that year, and entered a period of sustained declines over the next two decades after a brief increase in 1995-96. In the last five years, the Border Patrol has averaged fewer than 12,000 apprehensions per year in the entire El Paso Sector, about 5 percent of the level observed during the 1980s and early '90s."

While all apprehensions of all illegals in the El Paso Sector have dropped significantly since before FY 2011, they jumped from 10,345 in FY 2011 to more than 11,000 in FY 2013, according to the latest figures CBP provided to Homeland Security Today. In the El Paso Sector, apprehensions of "Other Than Mexicans" also rose since FY 2011, and in FY 2013 rose significantly, though still lower than in most other Border Patrol sectors.

From FY 2011 through FY 2013, there also was an increase in prosecutions and the amount of marijuana and cocaine seized in the El Paso Sector.

A 2011 GAO audit report of CBP access to federal lands concluded that, in general, DHS, DOI and USDA have used the national-level MOUs and established interagency liaison mechanisms to successfully negotiate DHS access to federal lands and the installation of border infrastructure in several different locations.

A majority of Border Patrol station chiefs (17 out of 26) said they experienced some type of delay or restriction in obtaining access to certain federal lands in their jurisdictions, but Rosenblum noted that "an even larger majority (22 out of 26) reported that such delays had not affected border security in their areas of operation.

GAO found, in some cases, that when the Border Patrol faces delays in adding infrastructure, such as fencing and other tactical infrastructure, it's able to mitigate wait times by assigning Border Patrol resources to work directly with partner agencies to expedite environmental reviews.

GAO said Border Patrol "did not always dedicate the resources to do so because many of the stations experiencing delays were in remote border regions where CBP did not perceive pressing border security threats."

"Overall, scarce Border Patrol resources were seen as more fundamental constraints on DHS's ability to secure the border than were requirements imposed by federal environmental and other laws," GAO's audit found. "Border Patrol station chiefs interviewed by GAO reported that the most important factors influencing their ability to secure federal lands near the border were the number of Border Patrol agents and the availability of adequate surveillance technology and tactical infrastructure. GAO concluded that these investments in border security per se were more important for controlling the border than were limitations on DHS's access to federal lands."

This assessment has been echoed by top Border Patrol officials in congressional testimony. They've told Congress the existing MOU allows Border Patrol to adequately carry out its border security missions.

Similarly, CBP said the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks monument designation "in no way [is] limiting" its ability to perform its mission and gives the agency "important flexibility" to do so.


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