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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Blake Moore (R-UT) has opened a new front in the Republicans’ war on what Moore calls “the Biden administration’s crisis on the southern border.”
On June 2, U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman ( R-AR) joined Moore in signing a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas urging the department to address the negative impacts of illegal immigration on federally protected areas and tribal lands along the southern border.
Westerman is the ranking minority member on the House Committee on Natural Resources. Moore is the ranking minority member on the House Oversight and Investigations subcommittee.
Specifically, Moore and Westerman warned of destruction of private ranchlands, degradation of sensitive environmental areas and safety concerns for both Customs and Border Protection agents and private citizens. Additionally, they said, failed border policies are poisoning people across the country with increased drug flow into American communities.
“In March of this year,” Moore said, “the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported an increase of 542 percent compared to March of 2020 in the numbers of encounters along the southern border.
“March 2022 also represented a 22-year high with an average of more than 7,000 migrant crossers per day … President (Joe) Biden’s border policies not only place our nation’s security at risk and increase the flow of illicit drugs (especially fentanyl) into our country, but also degrade our federal lands along the border.”
Moreover, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimates that border crossings would increase to 18,000 per day if Biden lifted Title 42 restrictions.
Title 42 is a pandemic-related health order that gave the U.S. the authority to immediately expel asylum seekers without legal process. The Trump-era policy was used to expel more than a million immigrants at the southern border as a threat to public health during the coronavirus pandemic.
When the Biden administration announced in April that Title 42 would expire on May 23, nearly half of all states sued the federal government arguing that the policy needed to remain to avoid a wave of illegal immigration and drug trafficking.
At the last minute, a federal judge in Louisiana ordered that Title 42 remain in place until the lawsuit by 24 state attorneys general was settled in court.
In the meantime, Moore said, the environmental consequences of illegal immigration are well-known, resulting in the endangerment of wildlife, decimation of habitats and destruction of vegetation.
Moore added that recent reporting describes significant accumulation of garbage along the Rio Grande River in Texas, including discarded clothing, hygiene items and plastic trash along a path used by illegal aliens to cross the border.
To ensure that DHS includes the detrimental impacts on federally protected environmental areas and tribal lands in future planning, the letter from Moore and Westerman requests that DHS provide documentation of that damage to them not later than June 16.
Specifically, they requested a document describing the current level of environmental damage to federally protected land and tribal communities; the anticipated level of damage following the revocation of Title 42; and, DHS plans to address the anticipated influx of migrants after Title 42 is revoked.
They also want to know the amount of drugs confiscated on tribal lands; an estimate of the number of illegal migrants who evaded CBP detection; and, the routes illegal migrants use to cross the border between Jan. 20, 2021 and June 2, 2022.
Finally, Westerman and Moore requested all documents and communications referring to coordination of garbage removal along the southern border; and also referring to the impact of garbage left behind by illegal migrants between Jan.20, 2021 and June 2, 2022.
Immigrant advocates and some Democrats have condemned the DHS letter as “a fishing expedition intended to bury the Biden administration in red tape.”