H.R. 5283, Protecting our Communities from Failure to Secure the Border Act of 2023H.R. _, TRASHED Border Act (Discussion Draft)H.R. _, Ensuring Border Access and Protection on Federal Land Act (Discussion Draft) Statement for the Record of the U.S. Department of the Interior before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee for Federal Lands on H.R. 5283, a bill to prohibit the use of Federal funds to provide housing to specified aliens on any land under the administrative jurisdiction of the Federal land management agencies H.R. __ (Discussion Draft), a bill to direct the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture to submit to Congress a report on the amount of waste collected on certain Federal land along the southern border of the United States H.R. __ (Discussion Draft), a bill to direct the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture to construct roads on Federal lands along the United States border with Mexico October 19, 2023 Chairman Tiffany, Ranking Member Neguse, and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interior’s (Department) views on H.R. 5283, a bill to prohibit the use of Federal funds to provide housing to specified noncitizens on any land under the administrative jurisdiction of the Federal land management agencies; H.R. _ (Discussion Draft), a bill to direct the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture to submit to Congress a report on the amount of waste collected on certain Federal land along the southern border of the United States; and H.R. _ (Discussion Draft), a bill to direct the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture to construct roads on Federal lands along the United States border with Mexico. At the outset, it is important to note that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which is charged with securing our Nation’s borders, is best positioned to communicate with Congress regarding border policy in general. The Department agrees that securing our international borders and reforming and modernizing our immigration laws are of critical importance to our Nation. In fact, President Biden has called on Congress to pass immigration reform legislation since his first day in office. In the meantime, the Administration is using the tools it has available to secure the border and build a safe, orderly, and humane immigration system while leading the largest expansion of lawful pathways for immigration in decades. While DHS, including U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), is responsible for securing our international borders, the Department’s bureaus, including the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and the National Park Service (NPS), and the Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service (USFS), manage public lands, wildlife refuges, and national parks along the international border with Mexico. The Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) also works with the Tohono O’odham Nation as it manages its reservation along the border. Together, Federal and Tribal lands comprise almost 40 percent of the lands along the border, and these land-managing bureaus and agencies work closely with DHS and CBP on border-related issues. Since March 2006, DHS, the Department and the Department of Agriculture have collaboratively managed the Federal lands along the southwest border according to a Memorandum of Understanding (2006 MOU) that provides goals, principles, and guidance for human safety and minimizing environmental and resource damage. The Department’s bureaus collaborate regularly with CBP to provide access for routine patrol, as well as for construction, installation, operation and maintenance of roads and tactical infrastructure. The bill and discussion drafts under consideration today each address issues related to the security of America’s international border between the United States and Mexico and to housing those who have crossed that border. The Department defers to DHS and other agencies responsible for administering the immigration laws for their views on the elements of these bills related to their areas of responsibility. With respect to the discussion drafts, the Department does not have a formal Administration position; however, should the discussion drafts be introduced, we would be happy to provide the Committee with our views upon request. H.R. 5283 H.R. 5283 would prohibit the use of Federal funds to provide housing, including temporary housing, to specified noncitizens on any land under the administrative jurisdiction of the NPS, BLM, the FWS, or the Forest Service. The Department's mission is to protect and manage our Nation's natural resources and cultural heritage, and the Department takes seriously our responsibility to ensure that our actions support this mission. This legislation would restrict the ability of the Department and its bureaus, including the BLM, FWS and NPS, to make decisions regarding the appropriate uses, even in emergency or other circumstances, of the lands and resources that we manage under current law. For this reason, we oppose H.R. 5283. H.R. __ (Discussion Draft), a bill to direct the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture to construct roads on Federal lands along the United States border with Mexico This discussion draft would direct the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture (Secretaries), in consultation with DHS, to install navigable roads of at least 584 miles in length along portions of the southern border that abuts covered Federal lands, within five years of enactment, to gain operational control of the southern border and deter border crossings. It requires the Secretaries to maintain these roads and allow Federal and state law enforcement access and use. The discussion draft would also direct the Secretaries to enter into cooperative agreements to allow DHS to deploy fencing, surveillance, and related technology along the navigable roads installed under the discussion draft. If this discussion draft were introduced, the Department would likely have significant concerns with the bill. Currently, the identification, review, approval and maintenance of new roads along the southern border is managed by CBP, in coordination with the applicable land management agency, which is in accordance with the process established in the 2006 MOU. This process recognizes that roads and access along the southern border involve a mix of land jurisdictions involving private, Tribal and State-owned lands and utility authorizations, and that operational control is ever evolving. We have significant questions as to whether legislatively mandating a 584-mile continuous network of roads on only Federal lands as far as one-mile from the border would improve border security and DHS should have further opportunity to review. We also note that the legislation may have other unintended consequences. As drafted, use of the roads would be limited to Department of Defense and CBP personnel, local law enforcement and emergency response officials, and others necessary to gain operational control of the southern border. Currently roads along the border are also used by adjacent non-Federal landowners, authorized utility providers, hunters, recreationists, Tribal members accessing sites of cultural importance, and Federal land managers implementing their agencies’ varied missions. Under the discussion draft, it appears that these users would be precluded from access. Finally, there is an existing, approximately 60-foot-wide swath adjacent to long portions of the southern border, the Roosevelt Reservation, which is plowed and cleared of vegetation to provide access for CBP vehicular patrols. Along other portions, the discussion draft’s requirement to place roads within one mile of the border may require the installation of bridges and other infrastructure given the terrain and resources in certain areas, including wilderness areas. Mandatory establishment and related construction of a 584-mile continuous network of roads on Federal lands, and the deployment of additional fencing, surveillance and related technology along these roads, would likely have significant environmental consequences on the natural resources of the Federal lands and on Tribal cultural areas within those lands. H.R. __(Discussion Draft), a bill to direct the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture to submit to Congress a report on the amount of waste collected on certain Federal land along the southern border of the United States This discussion draft directs the Secretaries to submit an annual report to Congress on the amount of waste collected on covered Federal lands at the southern border, and to prevent and mitigate environmental degradation on such Federal lands. Finally, the legislation directs the Secretaries to promulgate rules and regulations to increase the penalties and fines that may be imposed on certain noncitizens under applicable fire and sanitation regulations. If this discussion draft were introduced, the Department would likely have significant concerns with the bill. As an initial matter, although lands along the southern border are impacted by border activities, we cannot determine with certainty who or what activities are responsible for these impacts. It is likewise difficult to determine what constitutes and who is responsible for establishing an unauthorized trail, or who is responsible for starting a wildfire. As such, it would be extremely difficult to provide a report which focuses on the specific demographic identified in the discussion draft. The Department notes that as written, the doubling of penalties for the violations cited in the discussion draft could be interpreted to elevate those offenses from their current status as Class A misdemeanors to Class E felonies. If these violations are considered felonies, all cases would have to be submitted to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for felony prosecution. We defer to the Department of Justice for its views on these penalties. Currently, the bureaus work closely with CBP to address issues of waste and resource derogation on Federal lands along the southern border. Each land managing bureau within the Department, in accordance with their conservation mission, has policies and procedures in place to prevent and mitigate environmental degradation of lands under their jurisdiction, including from camping, regardless of the citizenship status of those using Federal lands. As these actions are already taking place, the requirement in the discussion draft to issue policies and procedures is unnecessary. Thank you for the opportunity to provide this statement for the record.