H.R. 1505 - Violating Environmental, Native American, and Human Rights to "Protect the Border"
June 18, 2012
We urge you to oppose the National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act (H.R. 1505) as included in H.R. 2578. H.R. 1505 would create a 100-mile-deep zone along the U.S.-Canada and U.S.-Mexico borders where Customs and Border Protection (CBP) would be able to ignore dozens of federal environmental, public health, and safety laws. Even with proposed amendments, this bill is an unnecessary overreach that would result in serious harm to our public parks and recreation areas along both borders.
H.R. 1505 would give unprecedented power to one agency. H.R. 1505 would give CBP unlimited and unregulated access to federal lands, including tribal lands, national parks and wildlife refuges, within 100 miles of our southern and northern borders.1 The laws in question represent decades of responsible lawmaking to protect the environment and human health, maintain treaties with Canada and Mexico, and to protect the sovereignty of tribal lands. Among the laws which could be waived under these proposals are:
-Safe Drinking Water Act (1974)
-Clean Air Act (1963)
-Clean Water Act (1972)
-Endangered Species Act (1973)
-National Environmental Policy Act (1970)
-Wilderness Act (1964)
-National Forest Management Act (1976)
-Migratory Bird Treaty Act (1918)
-Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (1990)
-American Indian Religious Freedom Act (1978)
-Coastal Zone Management Act (1972)
-Solid Waste Disposal Act (1965)
H.R. 1505 is not necessary. Border Patrol objectives are better achieved when agents work closely with public land managers who bring extensive knowledge of terrain, weather, and resource conditions. Border Patrol officials have testified before Congress that such blanket waivers are not needed and that current multiagency coordination between the Departments of Homeland Security, Interior and Agriculture is good.2 Additionally, a recent GAO study found that Border Patrol activities are not impeded by federal laws. On the contrary, the study found high levels of cooperation between Border Patrol and federal lands managers.
H.R. 1505 is bad policy-making. When implemented, such blanket waivers of federal and local laws disregard decades of investment in public lands and decades of collaboration with public lands managers in Mexico to establish migratory corridors for endangered and protected species. Haphazard construction of fencing and walls on the southern border has already led to extensive flooding on both public and private lands. If such waivers are implemented at the northern border as well, more damage to our public treasures would be likely, in places such as Glacier National Park in Montana, Olympic National Forest in Washington, and the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire. With a blanket waiver, CBP could construct fences, buildings, and roads in these and other public lands without regard for laws.
Protect God's People and God's Earth. Oppose H.R. 1505. As people of faith, we are called to care for the Earth and protect the wellbeing of its precious inhabitants. We do not need to sacrifice clean air,clean water, and decades of investments in our public parks and lands in the name of border security, particularly not when our border security agencies tell us such drastic measures are not necessary. Blanket waiver proposals such as H.R. 1505 are nothing more than an attempt to use heated rhetoric over border security in order to undermine longstanding human health and environmental protections.
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office
National Council of Churches USA
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Office of Public Witnesses
Union for Reform Judaism
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
United Methodist Church - General Board of Church and Society