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house Bill H.R. 3968

Should the DHS Secretary Waive Environmental Reviews & Permits for CBP Agents to Destroy Illegal Border Tunnels?

Argument in favor

Trafficking across the U.S.-Mexico border through tunnels is a major problem, with drugs, people, and guns entering the U.S. illegally on a daily basis. Allowing CBP to destroy these tunnels more quickly will help keep the U.S. safer and help cut off drug inflows into the country.

Bwana's Opinion
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10/08/2019
There is absolutely NO valid reason to justify the delay and expense of an environmental impact assessment. Zero tunnel destruction has been delayed. This is bureaucratic BS. Get on with it!
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Doug's Opinion
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10/08/2019
Given that no studies were conducted to construct the tunnels in the first place, restoring the grounds back to pre-tunnel standards seems to be the best course of action for the environment and securing the border.
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Michael's Opinion
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10/08/2019
Destroy the tunnels!!! There was no impact studies to build the tunnels!!! Would be fixing a problem for the environmentalist without them realizing it!
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Argument opposed

CBP agents are already destroying border tunnels as quickly as possible, and it’s unnecessary to eliminate important safeguards that ensure this process is done with the local environment in mind. It’d be more useful to approve new technologies that’ll help CBP destroy tunnels more efficiently.

Sheila's Opinion
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10/08/2019
Apparently the GOP is not satisfied with all the environmental damage they’ve already caused. Do not give CBP free reign. Oversight is needed.
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jimK's Opinion
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10/08/2019
It isn’t the tunnels- it’s the exits from the tunnels which should be easy to seal, while awaiting proper permits to assure that destroying the tunnels do not harm property owners or god-forbid, undermine the structural integrity of ... ... The WALL. This legislation is yet another attempt to sponsor useless legislation for election year ‘creds’.
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J's Opinion
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10/08/2019
Government should be efficient enough to obtain proper review prior to implementing plans. We need to ensure government works well and efficiently, not ignore the fact they can’t and use that as an excuse to give them free reign to take potentially improper action all because they can’t get their sh*t together!
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Border Security, Facilitation, and Operations
      Committee on Homeland Security
      Immigration and Citizenship
    IntroducedJuly 25th, 2019

What is House Bill H.R. 3968?

This bill — the EXIT Act of 2019 — would allow the Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS Secretary) to waive environmental reviews and permits for Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents to destroy tunnels at the border used for illegal crossing and the transport of narcotics. It also allows CBP to enter into certain contracts to allow for faster processing of tunnel destruction. Finally, it would clarify that CBP has the authority to search for and remediate unlawful border crossing tunnels when patrolling the border.

The bill’s full title is the Eradicate Crossing of Illegal Tunnels Act of 2019.

Impact

Border states; drug cartels; smugglers; federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement; and Dept. of Homeland Security.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 3968

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthSponsoring Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) introduced this bill to expedite the approval of processes that U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents need to go through to destroy tunnels at the border used for illegal crossings and the transportation of narcotics

“We need to ensure our border patrol agents have the tools necessary to efficiently and effectively remove illegal access to our country. Waiting for environmental reviews of drug tunnels that have already disturbed the ground and will ultimately be filled with concrete is unnecessary and threatens our national security. Last October, I visited the Southern Border and spoke directly with CBP agents in Nogales, Arizona. The burdensome process for filling illegal tunnels was a top concern. An agent explained that once a tunnel was found, it could take months to get through the environmental reviews necessary to block it.”

As an example of the delays these approvals can cause, Rep. Hartzler cited the example of a tunnel in the Rio Grande Valley. The tunnel was found on January 5, 2019 but wasn’t filled until nearly four months later, on April 22, 2019. 

Scott Brown, a special agent in the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) division, says tunnel activity has increased since border security was tightened in the 2000s

“Tunnels are a time consuming venture but [their incidence] has definitely increased since the border security measures have ramped up. One of the things that tunnelling does tell us, is that as we increase infrastructure, resources, patrol – that’s forcing them to go to more costly routes into the US.”

Mike Vigil, the former head of international operations at the DEA, says the “U.S.-Mexico border is literally riddled with tunnels. [Drug cartels] have to move those drugs across the border and probably the most secure method is through the use of tunnels.” Vigil estimates that for every tunnel authorities find, about 10 go undetected. He calls tunnels a smuggling method with an “average lifespan [that[ could be perpetual… unless you have specific information from a human source, or there’s unusual activity detected that would warrant a closer look,” and argues that tunnels are “a smuggling method that will probably continue and probably increase in the future, especially with the increased border patrols and the surveillance that is taking place along the border."

This legislation has 22 Republican cosponsors.


Of NoteThe first cross-border tunnel was discovered in May 1990, and the number of tunnels increased dramatically in 2001. According to ICE, 152 tunnels were discovered from 2001-2011. Smuggling groups use tunnels to move drugs, guns, and people who want to sneak across the U.S. border. Experts say sophisticated tunnels are mostly used for drug and gun smuggling, though people who don’t want to risk travelling above ground will also occasionally be smuggled through these tunnels as well. Cocaine and methamphetamine are brought into the U.S. through tunnels, but marijuana is the most prevalent drug transported through the tunnels.

During the U.S. trial of drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, witnesses described how Guzman used tunnels dug under the border and fake jalapeño cans to smuggle tons of cocaine into the U.S. from the 1990s to early 2000s.

In May 2019, Lance Lenoir, Director of Logistics in San Francisco for CBP, noted the scale of the problem. He said, “In San Diego alone, we have discovered 70 cross border tunnels. 36 of those are of the sophisticated kind. We’ve seen them as long as 3,000 feet.”

When border tunnels are found, the Confined Spaces Entry Team (also known as the “Tunnel Rats”) within CBP is responsible for destroying them. To boost tunnel detection and mapping efforts, Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate is looking to send robots into underground tunnels and other places where its sensors can’t communicate in order to map and document (through photos and videos) hard-to-reach places.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: DVIDSHUB via Flickr / Creative Commons)

AKA

Eradicate Crossing of Illegal Tunnels Act of 2019

Official Title

To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to clarify that the Secretary of Homeland Security may waive certain environmental requirements to permit U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to search for unlawful border crossing tunnels on private land to prevent the illegal entry of aliens into the United States, and for other purposes.

    There is absolutely NO valid reason to justify the delay and expense of an environmental impact assessment. Zero tunnel destruction has been delayed. This is bureaucratic BS. Get on with it!
    Like (32)
    Follow
    Share
    Apparently the GOP is not satisfied with all the environmental damage they’ve already caused. Do not give CBP free reign. Oversight is needed.
    Like (47)
    Follow
    Share
    It isn’t the tunnels- it’s the exits from the tunnels which should be easy to seal, while awaiting proper permits to assure that destroying the tunnels do not harm property owners or god-forbid, undermine the structural integrity of ... ... The WALL. This legislation is yet another attempt to sponsor useless legislation for election year ‘creds’.
    Like (42)
    Follow
    Share
    Government should be efficient enough to obtain proper review prior to implementing plans. We need to ensure government works well and efficiently, not ignore the fact they can’t and use that as an excuse to give them free reign to take potentially improper action all because they can’t get their sh*t together!
    Like (25)
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    Share
    No, environmental standards can’t just be waived. These regulations are in place to protect the workers who go into the tunnels, and they should stay that way.
    Like (18)
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    No! The purpose for the regulations is to protect the employees taking down the tunnels. Being ignorant has its price.
    Like (18)
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    Given that no studies were conducted to construct the tunnels in the first place, restoring the grounds back to pre-tunnel standards seems to be the best course of action for the environment and securing the border.
    Like (15)
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    I support this 100%. #MAGA
    Like (12)
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    It’s a tunnel, a hole dug horizontally thru the ground. Filling it in with dirt shouldn’t require studies or permits, just labor to fill it in. I’m pretty sure that they are not planning to fill it in with hazardous waste.
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    Destroy the tunnels!!! There was no impact studies to build the tunnels!!! Would be fixing a problem for the environmentalist without them realizing it!
    Like (12)
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    We need to ensure our border patrol agents have the tools necessary to efficiently and effectively remove illegal access to our country!!!! Waiting for environmental reviews of drug tunnels that have already disturbed the ground and will ultimately be filled with concrete is unnecessary and threatens our national security!!!! The burdensome process for filling illegal tunnels was a top concern!!!! An agent explained that once a tunnel was found, it could take months to get through the environmental reviews necessary to block it!!!! Which is completely obscured that these tunnels aren’t documented then immediately used for sting operations then filled in with cement and steel by legal American hard working citizens!!!! Closing illegal tunnel loopholes will help stop illegal criminal aliens and dangerous drug from the criminal cartels from pouring into of countries making them rich in the process!!! Tunnels are a time consuming venture but their incidence has definitely increased since the border security measures have ramped up!!!! One of the things that tunnelling does tell us, is that as we increase infrastructure, resources, patrol that’s forcing them to go to more costly routes into the US!!!! Burden the criminal illegal aliens, criminal cartel organization, and help put American to work!!!!
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    👉👉Watch the DNC Create a bill mandating illegals to get their ‘FREE’ environmental tunnel permits- prior to illegal tunneling. This is how the DNC thinks!! Or they eat more Babies. 👉👉Close the tunnel with Environmentally Friendly Dirt ASAP- Problem Solved.
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    No
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    Yes destroyed as soon as they’re found what’s.will be next we SUPPY free Elec to them to light up their illegal tunnels
    Like (10)
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    Protecting our planet should always be kept in mind when destroying tunnels or anything else that alters our landscape! The GOP are making it clear that they don’t care about our environment.
    Like (9)
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    Does the word "illegal" mean anything?
    Like (8)
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    Human and drug trafficking must be stopped.
    Like (8)
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    No! Protect the environment. Find a better way to remove/block/destroy illegal tunnels.
    Like (7)
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    Protect the environment.
    Like (7)
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    How is this even a question!? The environment wasn’t considered in the illegal digging of these tunnels! Use some common sense, put people above the proverbial snail darters and fill in these tunnels.
    Like (7)
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