WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., Wednesday released the following statement with regard to a Government Accountability Office report on U.S. efforts to secure the northern and southern borders that fall on federally owned or administrated lands.
“The GAO report is a good news / bad news story. The good news is that today the Department of Homeland Security and the federal land management agencies are working together more closely than they ever have. The bad news is that some critical coordination and information sharing gaps remain, degrading our efforts to prevent human and drug smuggling on federal lands.
“I was particularly concerned by GAO’s finding that the threat to federal lands may be increasing because the Border Patrol’s apprehensions of illegal border crossers on federal lands have not kept pace with the number of people crossing the border illegally on federal lands. In 2007, the Border Patrol apprehended 41 percent of the illegals it estimated actually crossed the border in Tucson sector’s federal lands. In 2009, it arrested just over a quarter of the people who crossed the border. While illegal entries are an unofficial statistic, the trends that GAO uncovered, if accurate, are troubling, particularly in light of the increase in resources that has been given to the Border Patrol in recent years.
“National parks and other federal lands embody the very concept of this nation’s founding: freedom. They are part of our national legacy that is passed down through the generations. We must do all we can to ensure they do not become lawless enclaves exploited by the criminal drug and human smuggling cartels.”