Debate over immigration and enforcement attracts major effort to savage environmental laws within 100 miles of the borders-

OPINION

Americans are having a heated debate over illegal immigration, cross border drug smuggling and what to do about it.  This has attracted some very contentious legislation at the state and federal levels. The President, various state legislatures and governors, and the U.S. Congress have all been deeply involved. Some of the dispute is an honest, though angry difference of opinion and of values.  Other proposals are dishonest to the core, using fear of international terrorism conflated with anger about illegal immigration to try to move legislation that really has a completely different purpose. A prime example of the latter is the “National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act,” or just the “border bill,” which has, amazingly, now passed the U.S. House of Representatives.

Most prominent of the 59 co-sponsors of the bill is Montana’s lone U.S. Representative Denny Rehberg, who wants to move up to the U.S. Senate. One of his tactics is this bill. It would not clearly stop any terrorists or illegals, but it would tear down essentially all of our environmental protection laws on public lands within 100 miles of any international border of the United States.

The bill has become a major issue in the Rehberg/Senator Jon Tester U.S. Senate contest.  Judging from the many news stories about the bill, it isn’t popular with the media (do a search), but the U.S. House did actually pass the bill in late June, sending it to the Senate.

Rehberg talked about the bill, “”It’s time to put an end to the dangerous turf war, where federal land managers hide behind environmental laws in order to prevent border patrol agents from doing their jobs on federal land. It’s not acceptable for Montana families to be at risk because federal bureaucrats can’t get along.”

We were not aware that the Forest Service, BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, National Park Service, EPA, etc. were in “a dangerous turf war” with our border patrol.  Nor can we understand why if they are in a war, why it is that only environmental laws are being used as a weapon. The Border Patrol does not support the bill . . . . some combatant!

Nevertheless, the Republicans seem to think that Al Qaeda will somehow use the Clean Water Act, or one of the 35 other environment laws to be repealed, to harm America within a neat 100 miles of the border. National parks and wilderness areas seem to be very dangerous.  Yes, Rehberg seems to be especially concerned about the more pristine parts of the Montana/Canada border, although if there is any terrorism going on in the area, we think it is most likely on the Alberta side where the Earth is being torn apart by huge tar pits used to generate toxic SynCrude “oil.”

Dave Stalling of the Missoula Independent has an especially critical story on the bill and on Rehberg. Canadian baloney. Rehberg’s using fear to sell bad bill.

Five or ten years ago, a bill like this would never have been considered in Congress, but today it passes the House on a party line vote. No doubt it will die in the U.S. Senate, but what will happen if the Republicans gain control of the Senate in 2012? This is one reason why the Tester/Rehberg race is so important.  Many people are holding their nose to vote for Tester, but Rehberg is the epitome of the radicalized Republican Party that seems to totally disrespect our American outdoor heritage — a kind of partisan terrorism over our fish, wildlife, and let’s face it,  against “America the Beautiful” herself.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides.

4 Responses to Dishonest “border bill” passed by Republican House

  1. avatar Maska says:

    Well said, Ralph. New Mexico Second District Congress Critter Steve Pearce has been dishing up this same brand of thick sliced baloney to stop national monunment designation of the Organ Mountains and a number of other natural treasures in Dona Ana County.

    • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

      Maska,

      Thanks. I think Pearce, Rehberg and Rob Bishop of Utah form some kind of unholy trinity on this.

  2. avatar CodyCoyote says:

    There’s a silver lining of hope here. Quite a few Montanans see right thru this bill, and recognize it for what it is: an assault on the environment and impediment to outdoor recreation. because it sure as pine nuts isn’t an effective terrorism and border immigration checktool.

    I sincerely hope it becomes a campaign plank for Tester folks to use up alongside Rehrberg’s fatuous head like a crusty cowboy using a 2 x 4 to ‘edjikate’ a stodgy mule. After all, we have to put it in lowest denominator terms for the electorate just north of me.

  3. avatar WM says:

    Opinion:

    Ralph, I, too, am very disappointed about the direction immigration policy is taking, with such legislation. I am in agreement with your entire stated stand. We can hope a more thoughtful Senate will stop this nonsense.

    I am, however, mindful that the subject is finally (and maybe way too late for effective solutions) getting some of the attention and discussion it deserves. Another solution from history could be that of President Eisenhower, in which illegals were rounded up by the US military and sent back to country of origin. The companion Bracero program which had before and after the deportation component authorized specific numbers of legal workers into the country to provide necessary labor for the needs of agriculture and other economic sectors. Why such a program cannot work today defies explanation (except a political one).

    The fact that there is an additional need to secure our borders from would be terrorists seems to justify going back to a tried and proven system from the 1950’s and 60’s, blended with some modifications and humanitarian considerations.

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Quote

‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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