Utah's Rep. Rob Bishop says his top priority as a congressman is to get a law passed that has little to do with Utah and has been criticized by the very people Bishop says it would help.
Bishop's National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act would allow the Customs and Border Protection agencies to ignore all environmental laws meant to protect land, air and water within 100 miles of the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico.
Somehow, Bishop convinced the House Natural Resources Committee to approve the misguided bill 26-17. The bill is needed, Bishop says, because the Environmental Protection Agency, Interior Department and other executive branch agencies are stopping the Border Patrol from doing all it can to shut down illegal crossings along the border between the United States and Mexico.
But this proposed circumvention of 36 different federal environmental laws would threaten air and water quality, national parks and sensitive lands, not only in the Southwestern states where illegal immigrant crossings were once common, but also in such states as Florida, Maine, Minnesota, North Dakota, Michigan and Washington 30 states in all.
Ironically, Border Patrol officials say they've got the issue under control, thank you very much.
The Border Patrol's Public Lands Liaison Agent program coordinates with federal land-protection agencies. A Border Patrol newsletter describes the PLLA program: "In March 2006, the secretaries of the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture (which includes the Forest Service) signed a Memorandum of Understanding. This MOU committed the three agencies to cooperating on 'preventing illegal entry into the United States, protecting federal lands and natural and cultural resources, and where possible preventing adverse impacts associated with illegal entry by [cross-border violators] CBVs.' ... the MOU calls for the Border Patrol to 'consult with' land managers on a number of issues, including placement of tactical infrastructure."
But Bishop is undeterred.
"This is about providing the Border Patrol with the tools they want and they need to achieve the mission that we gave them," Bishop argued before the committee vote.
It seems obvious illegal immigration is less Bishop's target than environmental protection of all public lands. Frustrated in fighting land protection in Utah, he's expanding the front, charging in where he's not wanted or needed.