NPCA submitted the following position to members of the House of Representatives ahead of floor votes expected on June 21, 2018.
NPCA urges members to oppose H.R. 4760, Securing America’s Future Act, and H.R. 6136, Border Security and Immigration Reform Act, when both bills come to the floor for votes this week.
Some of our nation’s most treasured places, including Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona and Big Bend National Park in Texas, are located along the U.S.-Mexico border. They provide important habitat for wildlife, offer recreational opportunities for visitors and serve as economic engines for communities. Building a wall or expanding barriers through these areas jeopardizes the protection and preservation of natural and cultural resources in these national parks.
These two bills not only mandate additional tactical infrastructure and technology and authorize nearly $25 billion to militarize the southern border, they completely override the authority of the National Park Service (NPS) and other land managers to protect federal lands within 100 miles of both the northern and southern borders. This would expand the bills’ impact to include places like Joshua Tree National Park in California, Acadia National Park in Maine and Saguaro National Park in Arizona – all within 100 miles of the U.S. land border.
Additionally, neither of the bills’ immigration provisions provide a permanent solution for Dreamers. In fact, the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act uses border funding as a ransom, withholding a path to citizenship for Dreamers if the money authorized in the bill for border security is rescinded or used for other purposes. This is unfair and unacceptable.
The physical border infrastructure currently present in national parks blocks wildlife migration, disrupts the viewshed for park visitors, and has been subject to flooding. All the while, according to a 2017 GAO report, Customs and Border Protection has been unable to determine the border fencing’s impact on diverting illegal entries or apprehension rates over time. It is irresponsible to authorize additional funding for a tactic that has proven to be expensive and its effectiveness uncertain.
The Department of Homeland Security already has the authority, as granted under the Real ID Act of 2005, to waive any laws it deems necessary to proceed with border construction activities. These bills expand that authority to include design, testing, construction, installation, deployment, integration, and operation of physical barriers, tactical infrastructure, and technology. And the bills go a step further by explicitly waiving a series of laws that are key to the protection of our national parks. Waiving core laws like the National Park Organic Act, National Environmental Policy Act and Clean Water Act undermines the ability of NPS to conduct their duties to ensure national parks are protected and accessible to the public.
National park staff have developed working relationships with Border Patrol on the ground that make this heavy-handed authority unnecessary. Instead of waiving the role of NPS and other federal land managers, Congress should be supporting collaboration that helps both agencies achieve their missions without putting public health and our public lands in jeopardy. While the bills do include an exception for National Park units that have a “memorandum of understanding or similar agreement” with Customs and Border Protection, the vast majority of park units within 100 miles of the borders do not have comprehensive agreements, leaving them subject to the extensive waivers.
I urge you to oppose H.R. 4760, Securing America’s Future Act, and H.R. 6136, Border Security and Immigration Reform Act, and find border security alternatives that do not sacrifice the protection of our national parks, the experience of park visitors and the wellbeing of surrounding communities.
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Legislative Director, Government Affairs