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Members Survey Environmental Impacts of Illegal Immigration, Biden Border Crisis


WASHINGTON, D.C.,
July 23, 2021

Today, House Committee on Natural Resources Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) led a congressional delegation to McAllen, Texas to survey the impacts illegal immigration and the Biden border crisis have on sensitive wildlife habitats and federal lands along the border. U.S. Reps. Cliff Bentz (R-Ore.), John Moolenaar (R-Mich.) and Troy Balderson (R-Ohio) joined Westerman on the trip.

“We are facing a humanitarian, economic and environmental crisis at our southern border. There’s no doubt about it,” Westerman said. “While we have closely tracked this issue for months, nothing compares to seeing it in person. During our visit, border agents took us to multiple areas where illegal immigration and drug trafficking corridors are wrecking wildlife habitats, causing long-term damage to fragile ecosystems in the federal lands along the southern border. We must take action to end the Biden border crisis. With immigration numbers skyrocketing, it’s time to finally give the hardworking men and women who defend our southern border the critical resources they need to curb illegal activity, protect federal lands and expediently process migrants. I look forward to taking what we heard during our conversations with border agents back to D.C.”

“The situation on the border is shocking,” Bentz said. “The challenge of managing the unprecedented number of immigrants crossing the border and the organized crime facilitating that migration is extraordinarily difficult. It is my hope that this visit will allow us to share with the American people the need to address border security in a much more comprehensive manner. This is a true emergency.”

“Thank you to the National Border Patrol Council, the Texas Department of Public Safety, and all of the hardworking men and women in law enforcement working on the southern border,” Moolenaar said. “What we saw today here in the Rio Grande Valley reinforced the need to fix our country’s broken immigration system by securing the border, prioritizing people who follow the law and come legally, while also making sure the nation has the workforce it needs, especially in agriculture and tourism. Many people come to America because they do not feel safe in countries where cartels and violence are rampant. They come to America for the rule of law, but what the Biden Administration’s policies have done is create a crisis where law enforcement is overwhelmed. Drug cartels and human traffickers benefit from this crisis, and they often assault helpless women and children during the dangerous journey to our nation’s southern border. America is a shining city on a hill, representing hope and freedom to people around the world, but we cannot have open borders and I will continue to work for immigration laws that make sense and address our country’s needs.”

“Ignoring the crisis at our southern border has far-reaching and disastrous consequences for every American,” Balderson said. “The Administration’s decision to turn a blind-eye jeopardizes our national security, worsens the flow of drugs into our communities, endangers desperate individuals who rely on cartels to make the trek, and inflicts irreversible harm to the environment. I am grateful to Ranking Member Westerman for this opportunity to learn more about yet another facet of the devastation caused by the Administration’s mishandling of the crisis, and I look forward to sharing about this experience with colleagues on Capitol Hill.”

Background

In June 2021, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported 188,829 persons illegally attempting entry to the U.S. along the southwest border. Major sectors have seen exponential entry spikes in a year already marked by historic numbers of border crossings. 

Westerman, Bentz, Moolenaar and Balderson traveled to the border to personally view the environmental impacts these crossings have on fragile habitats and ecosystems along the border, as well as hear from the agents on the ground about how Congress can provide relief. The members began their trip Thursday night in McAllen, Texas with a border tour of the Rio Grande Valley Sector, where they saw some of the crossings that occur in the middle of the night.

The members then visited the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge on Friday with representatives from the National Border Patrol Council to discuss habitat protection efforts within the refuge. They later received a briefing on border security operations from Texas Department of Public Safety officials and concluded the trip with a boat tour along the Rio Grande River, where the members saw evidence of highly-trafficked areas, such as discarded trash and rafts littering the riverbanks

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