Agent Was Killed on Federal Land Where Border Patrol Has Hands Tied
But restricted enforcement on federal lands has meant that drug cartels have freer rein over the corridors -- and they're not exactly environmentally sensitive.
"That's ludicrous," Bishop said of the environmentalist blame directed at the Border Patrol. "The bad guys are already using mechanized vehicles."
While regulations prevent the Border Patrol from constructing any paved or unpaved roads in wilderness lands, cartels have already cut 8,000 miles of off-road tracks into the Arizona border territory. Law enforcement is also prohibited from constructing watch towers or landing aircraft in the wilderness areas, which are marred by piles of trash and waste left by smugglers.
"Because there are restrictions on what the Border Patrol can do on federal land… this has become the corridor of choice for the criminal element coming into the United States," Bishop said.
Ivie was shot in an active smuggling corridor for the Sinaloa cartel, a powerful syndicate whose mules don't lack technology or weaponry to outwit law enforcement. Mexican police arrested two men who may be connected with the shooting today, but no further details were offered.
The congressman also stressed that the same factors dissuading illegal immigrant workers have zero impact on the drug smugglers bringing their stashes north for sale and human traffickers smuggling women into prostitution rackets.
"They don't care about eVerify and they don't care about our economy," Bishop said.
Thus the environmental restrictions -- as smugglers trample and trash sensitive lands on their own, including cutting down majestic cacti to create traps on roads -- just create blind spots along the leaky border. Eighty percent of drug smuggling takes place outside of official border points of entry.
"We could see a significant increase in the use of the more remote areas along the border by smuggling organizations," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano wrote in an October 2009 letter to Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), then ranking member and now chairman of the Natural Resources Committee. "The ability of USBP to effectively patrol these areas has never been more critical."
"Our policies encourage the bad guys," Bishop said, noting that when he speaks with Border Patrol agents they don't ask for better equipment or weapons, but access to these critical areas.
Instead, Homeland Security has had to cough up funds -- more than $9 million since 2007 -- to the Interior Department to mitigate "environmental damage" caused by border enforcement.
Regarding Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Bishop said, "On this issue he's kind of been AWOL."
"The Border Patrol has great deal of flexibility on private and state property," Bishop noted. "We don't have control of this part of the United States and this is not what a sovereign nation does."
"This hits home to us," he said of the latest border murder. "It should not have happened and we should not allow this to take place."
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