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House approves measure to allow Border Patrol to bypass laws

The House voted 232 to 188 on Tuesday to pass H.R. 2578, the Conservation and Economic Growth Act.

The bill includes H.R. 1505, otherwise known as the National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act. The measure allows the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to circumvent more than a dozen federal laws and has drawn the objections of the National Congress of American Indians and tribes near the Canadian and Mexican borders.

"Many Indian tribes have lands and sacred places located near U.S. international borders, and we believe that the sovereignty and cultural integrity of our member tribes and others is unnecessarily put in jeopardy by the sweeping approach in this bill," Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-New York) said during debate on H.R.2578 yesterday.

When it was introduced, H.R.1505 waived more than 30 laws but an amendment that was adopted yesterday pared the list down to 16. A section titled "Tribal Sovereignty" states that nothing in the bill "supersedes, replaces, negates, or diminishes treaties or other agreements" with tribes.

The laws that will be waived include the National Historic Preservation Act, which requires tribal consultation on decisions affecting cultural sites, and the Arizona Desert Wilderness Act, which settled the water rights of the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation. The laws will be waived for a five-year period, according to the bill.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana) has criticized H.R.1505 as an intrusion on tribal sovereignty. Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Montana), Montana's sole member of the House, is a co-sponsor of the bill.

Tester is being challenged by Rehberg this year for the Senate seat.

Get the Story:
House approves bill to let Border Patrol bypass environmental laws (The Missoulian 6/20)
House approves bill giving new powers to Border Patrol to circumvent fed’l environmental laws (AP 6/19)
HR 1505: The Latest Tribal Border War (Indian Country Today 6/19)

An Opinion:
Richard E. Wackrow: Fear itself threatens Americans' freedom (The Billings Gazette 6/20)

Related Stories:
Oliver Semans: Border 'security' bill a major threat to tribes (03/12)
Sen. Tester: 'Security' bill poses a threat to tribal sovereignty (12/01)

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