Bad border bill puts environment at risk

Border Bill Press Conference, Capitol Hill (MCC Photo/Jesse Epp Fransen)

What if within 100 miles of all U.S. borders, decades’ worth of public health, tribal, and environmental laws were disregarded? Today on Capitol Hill, this question brought together a diverse coalition of environmental, Latino, Native American, ranching/hunting, and faith-based advocacy groups attending a press conference expressing opposition (see photo) to H.R. 1505 (also called the Border Bill, or Bishop Bill).

Of the many bad bills included in the Lands Package (H.R. 2578) to be voted on this afternoon, House Rep. Rob Bishop’s Border Bill is probably the worst. The Border Bill gives the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) unprecedented carte blanche on federal and tribal lands within 100 miles of U.S. borders. See a map of lands affected here.  The bill is a huge overreach that would allow DHS to disregard dozens of environmental and tribal laws (see bill text).

Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, has called this bill “unnecessary, and bad policy.” Unnecessary, because stewards of public lands currently work alongside DHS and Border Patrol with success. Bad policy, because it overturns over a century of bedrock environmental and tribal laws on large swaths of public lands.

As a faith community, we must protest against the sacrifice of God’s creation on the altar of unnecessary, fear-driven politics. We are called to be stewards of the earth, and take care of it (Genesis 2:15). As stewards, we must also care for that which is vulnerable. Native American tribes and land, endangered species, pristine National Parks and Forests, and clean air and water for border communities are all severely threatened by this bill.

Today’s votes will tell if the House supports this measure. Even if the bill does not go through Congress, we are faced with the looming reality that this bill is a taste of more to come. We must not allow fear to drive actions that override laws protecting vulnerable people, plants, places, and animals. Call or email your House Representative, and tell them that you do not support H.R. 1505 or similar measures that overturn decades of environmental policy.

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