WASHINGTON -- Sen. Mike Lee offered an amendment Thursday to let border patrols skirt federal environmental protections, arguing they need leeway to go after people crossing in remote areas because it's dangerous and they leave "a trail of litter."
"We have a problem when [border] agents can't adequately enforce the law, can't adequately enforce the border ... simply because of the fact today the land is federally owned and environmental restrictions get in their way," Lee said.
"The net result of this is not environmental protection, because as we've seen in many of these areas because coyotes and others who bring people illegally across the border are well aware of these restrictions," Lee said. "They'll make sure illegal immigrants come across these same tracts of land in order to get into the United States illegally. And they leave in their wake in some cases a trail of destruction, or at least a trail of litter."
The lands are restricted because vehicles can cause severe damage to fragile ecosystems, especially in the desert.
A recent Government Accountability Office report found:
"22 of the 26 patrol agents-in-charge reported that the overall security status of their jurisdiction had not been affected by land management laws. Instead, factors such as the remoteness and ruggedness of the terrain have had the greatest effect on their ability to achieve operational control in these areas. Four patrol agents-in-charge reported that delays and restrictions had affected their ability to achieve or maintain operational control, but they either had not requested resources for increased or timelier access or their requests had been denied by senior Border Patrol officials because of higher priority needs of the agency.