BRIGHAM CITY — Fixing immigration won’t come from building a fence or adding more border patrol agents.
Instead, at least the border issue should be tackled by giving agents more authority to patrol federal lands, which make up 80 percent of the Arizona border, Rep. Rob Bishop told a group of chamber of commerce officials.
The Northern Utah Chamber Coalition, including several Davis Chamber of Commerce officials, met with Bishop late last month.
“It’s one of those things really important to businesses and families,” said Nathan Rich, chair of the Davis Chamber’s Legislative Affairs Committee. “It’s a charged issue but it really needs to be dealt with at a federal level. There is so little we can do at a state level.”
Bishop said he believes a step-by-step approach can solve the immigration issue, starting with border security.
“I expect something to be discussed in this (Congressional) session,” he said.
“It’s very clear there is a lot of anger and anxiety,” Bishop said. “If we’re going to come up with a comprehensive approach, it’s going to require some compassion, consensus and compromise.”
Secure borders must come first, the congressman said.
“Until border security is realistically done, we’re not going to get people’s anxiety and anger level down.”
Border agents currently can not take motorized vehicles onto public lands, he said. If they use horses, a special permit is necessary, or they can patrol by foot.
“Drug traffickers don’t care,” Bishop said. “They come in cars, then burn the cars when they’re done. What we’re doing is putting a burden on the border patrol to do a job they can’t.”
One obstacle to effective patrol he mentioned was how the National Forest Service gave approval for helipads to be installed in some areas, but the Fish & Wildlife Service still hasn’t OK’d them – months later.
Bishop has introduced H.R. 2398, the National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act. He said the Senate’s Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act is too broad to work. The House has not taken action on that bill.
“One of our primary objectives was to let him know that the business community, everyone, is tired of the rhetoric. We want to get this thing moving,” Davis Chamber President Jim Smith said.