Interior sec. says she has not visited border despite concerns about migration's impact on federal lands

 May 2, 2024

The Biden administration has been under constant fire for what many believe is its neglect and even malfeasance when it comes to the southern border, and a recent admission from a key Cabinet member has only added fuel to that fire.

As the New York Post reports, during congressional testimony this week, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland revealed that she has not visited the southern border area during her administration tenure, despite growing concerns about the environmental impacts of illegal immigration on federal lands.

Haaland comes clean

On Wednesday, during an appearance before lawmakers on Capitol Hill, Haaland was grilled about the effects migrants are having on the environment in the southern border zone.

As part of a hearing on the fiscal year 2025 budget, Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-WI) began his exchange with the secretary by observing, “Roughly 40% of our southern border is federal lands.”

“Is trash on the federal lands along the border an issue?” he went on to ask.

Haaland replied, “Congressman, I have not been to the border, so I couldn't tell you that.”

Tiffany drills down

Amid his questioning of Haaland, Tiffany noted that officials from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) informed him earlier this year that roughly 193 tons of trash had been fathered along the U.S. border with Mexico in fiscal year 2021 alone.

Despite that staggering statistic, however, the Interior Department under Haaland allotted no funds whatsoever in its budget for clean-up initiatives in the region.

Tiffany continued in his questioning of Haaland, saying, “One of your priorities is conserving natural resources. Is dumping 193 tons of garbage on our federal lands conserving our natural resources?”

The secretary answered, “Clearly not.”

TRASHED Act proposes solutions

It was back in November that Tiffany introduced the Trash Reduction and Suppressing Harm from Environmental Degradation (TRASHED) at the Border Act as a means to reduce the environmental harm stemming from the presence of illegal migrants and to increase fines and penalties for migrants found responsible for leaving trash on federal lands.

In a press release issued at the time, Tiffany declared, “Having seen the litter of trash, clothes, and human waste on our federal borderlands firsthand, I can tell you that the environmental damage of President Biden's open border needs critical attention.”

“While the Biden administration turns a blind eye to the environmental consequences of illegal immigration, the TRASHED Border Act ensures there is greater transparency and accountability for illegals who litter on our public lands,” he added, outlining a series of proposed protocols meant to mitigate trash accumulation, drinking water contamination, and destruction of wildlife habitats as well as to mandate environmental impact reporting for affected border areas.

Whether the legislation will ultimately gain any traction in the current Congress, however, only time will tell, but given the lack of urgency exhibited by Haaland -- and the broader administration -- regarding the problem, it seems certain that countless individuals living within the border zone hope that it will.

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