Arizona Congressman Ben Quayle introduced a bill this morning that would give U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents unrestricted access to federal lands in the southwestern borderlands region.
The bill has been co-sponsored by Congressman Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and Arizona's House Republican delegation, including congressmen Jeff Flake and Trent Franks.
"President Obama on Monday argued that his Administration is making huge strides to secure our Southern border. While we have seen some limited progress over the past few years, Arizonans -- especially those living along the border -- know that the border is far from secure," Quayle says. "As we continue to push forward broader measures to secure our borders, we must immediately remove the bureaucratic barriers that hinder border enforcement. This bill provides common-sense reforms that make it easier for our border agents to do their jobs."
Under the current law, border agents often are forced to ask permission from federal land managers working for the Department of Interior and the Forest Service before they're legally allowed to enter federal land under their jurisdiction.
According to the Government Accountability Office, 40 percent of the southwestern borderlands are managed by the Forest Service, which slows down response times for border agents when they have to ask permission to enter the area repeatedly.
According to Quayle, in one case, border agents had to wait four months before being granted permission from land managers to move mobile-surveillance equipment to an area well known for its high level of "illegal traffic." By the time border agents got permission to enter the land, Quayle says, the traffic had moved to other areas.
"Given the vastness of federal land in Arizona, it's imperative that the Border Patrol have the ability to prevent illegal immigration from occurring there," Congressman Flake says in a statement.