As a Montanan who has worked near the international Border for more than 20 years, Rep. Denny Rehberg’s H.R. 1505, The National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act, leaves me scratching my head. What is he thinking?
The bill, which Rehberg co-sponsored, would hand sweeping powers to the Department of Homeland Security and the Border Patrol within 100 miles of the border. In Montana, that swath of land extends as far south as St. Ignatius, Great Falls and well below Ft. Peck Reservoir. But what is the emergency that justifies such a radical move?
Rehberg states that current law does not grant access to the Border Patrol on federal lands, and implies that federal bureaucrats deny or delay permission, allowing portions of our border to become safe havens for illegal elements, including terrorists.
Can he point to a single instance of federal land managers denying access to border areas in Montana? I worked in Glacier National Park and for the Bureau of Land Management in Havre and was never aware of such an instance. After 9/11, Glacier rangers increasingly included border security in their duties and were expected to work closely with Border Patrol agents.
According to Border Patrol sector offices in Spokane and Havre, agents have good working relationships with federal land managers in Montana. This bill is a solution looking for a problem. Until Rehberg has identified a real problem and justified the need for such an act, this proposal has no merit.
Certainly, no one in Montana has identified the need for this kind of federal action. If Congressman Rehberg is not listening to Montanans, I wonder who has his ear back in the Beltway?
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