March 17, 2015
Arizona Republic
Mark Carlson

Two Arizona lawmakers are pushing federal legislation that would enable U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel to gain full access to federal lands on the southwest border of Arizona for border security activities, including routine patrols and surveillance.

In a joint statement, Sen. John McCain and Rep. Matt Salmon said, " For decades, drug cartels and human smugglers have exploited U.S. land management laws by crossing our borders illegally and harming Arizona's national parks and protected areas."

The lawmakers say the "common sense" legislation would cut unnecessary red tape and enable Border Patrol agents to have access to all federally managed land in southwest Arizona so they can perform their jobs effectively, keeping our communities safe, and securing the border once and for all.

More than 85 percent of the land directly on the Arizona-Mexico border is controlled by the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture. Border Patrol agents must receive permission from land managers at agencies like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Park Service before gaining access for routine patrols or implementing tactical infrastructure such as radio towers.

According to a report by the U.S. Government and Accountability Office, Border Patrol agents reported restrictive laws have delayed their operations, while several agents in charge have noted they were, "unable to access certain areas in a timely manner," because of the time it takes land managers to complete the necessary property assessments.

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