Legislators Investigate the Impact of Immigration on National Parks

The United States House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations convened a hearing to explore the impact of immigration and crime on national parks. The committee, led by Republicans, examined the environmental consequences of migrants entering park lands, including trash accumulation, destruction of wildlife habitats, and illegal marijuana growing operations linked to cartels.

The Humanitarian Crisis

During the hearing, the placement of asylum seekers' camps on national park land was discussed. Ranking member Raúl Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat, referred to this as part of a humanitarian crisis. The National Park Service Deputy Director, Michael Reynolds, and the National Forest System Deputy Chief at the U.S. Forest Service, Chris French, testified about their agencies' collaboration with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The Legal Perspective

From a legal perspective, it's important to note that while the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is primarily responsible for protecting the nation's borders, the U.S. Forest Service’s “stewardship and law enforcement responsibilities are vital to assisting the border patrol with effectively defending national security, responding to terrorist threats, safeguarding human life and stopping the degradation of natural and cultural resources on National Forest System lands.”

The Issue of Migrant Camps

The issue of migrant camps in national parks was a significant contention. In September, New York City entered lease agreements with the National Park Service to create emergency housing for migrants at Floyd Bennett Field, an airfield in Brooklyn. This move was condemned by Republican Chair Bruce Westerman of the House Natural Resources Committee, who stated, "The (Biden) administration has now set a terrible precedent to use our public lands across the country to house migrants."

Native American Lands and the Border

Westerman pointed out that 35% of the land along the U.S. Southern border is Native American land. The Tohono O’odham Nation, which shares a 62-mile border with Mexico, spends about $3 million annually to assist with U.S. border security responsibilities.

The Environmental Impact

Republican members expressed concerns about the environmental impact of immigration, specifically pointing to trash accumulation at the border. Subcommittee Chair Paul Gosar, an Arizona Republican, also raised concerns about illegal marijuana growing sites operating on national forests and linked to international cartels.

The impact of immigration on national parks is a complex issue that intersects with humanitarian, legal, environmental, and cultural considerations. The U.S. House panel's investigation into this matter underscores the need for comprehensive and sustainable solutions.

If you are considering a change in immigration status, contact the experienced attorneys at Smith Law Offices, LLC.