July 10, 2014
Release: Military Veterans: Border Patrol Activities Unhindered by New Monument; Nearly 70 Retired Generals Push Back Against False Border Security Claims
Washington, D.C. – Veterans spoke out today in support of the newly established Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, noting that the monument designation protects American military history and public lands for recreation while not hindering U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s efforts in this area. President Obama used his executive authority under the Antiquities Act to establish the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument on May 21.
Despite having no negative impact on border security efforts, monument opponents in Congress, such as Rep. Steve Pearce (NM), continue to fire unfounded criticisms at the monument. More unfounded attacks on the monument from Rep. Pearce and others are expected today in the U.S. House of Representatives during a hearing of the Committee on Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency entitled “The Executive Proclamation Designating the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks a National Monument: Implications for Border Security.”
In June, 68 Retired Generals from various branches of the United States military, including seven 4-star Generals, sent a letter to President Obama disagreeing with these criticisms.
“There is nothing in the President’s proclamation that prevents Border Patrol from continuing to do their job keeping these public lands among the most secure along the Southwest border,” said Retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Steven M. Anderson, one of the signatories to the letter.
In their letter, the Generals wrote that “the designation of the new national monument has no bearing on our nation’s security. The portion of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument near the U.S.-Mexico border—the Portillo Mountains—has not been a problem area for illegal border crossings, and will similarly not be one in the future. Highway 9, which runs just north of the border in this area, is paved, well-maintained, and well-patrolled, enabling Border Patrol to react quickly to any incursions. In addition, this area is remote, dry, and wild country where covering large distances on foot is very difficult.”
The Generals’ letter also notes that “Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, and others worked diligently to establish the monument in a manner that does not, in any way, hinder the ability of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to do their job of securing our nation’s borders.”
In fact, in a recent statement regarding the monument (http://bit.ly/RUcOIk), a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol spokesperson said, “This designation will in no way limit our ability to perform our important border security mission, and in fact provides important flexibility as we work to meet this ongoing priority… CBP is committed to continuing to work closely with the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Forest Service to maintain border security while ensuring the protection of the environment along the border.”
According to the Albuquerque Journal, the Santa Teresa station of Border Patrol’s El Paso Sector apprehended only 13 illegal immigrants south of the Potrillo Mountains in Fiscal Year 2009, an area it patrols. This was 0.1 percent of the 14,999 total apprehensions in the El Paso Sector, which covers the entire state of New Mexico and the two western most counties in Texas.
“The current wild character of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks has led to extremely low rates of illegal border crossing activity. Simply put, this is not a problem area for illegal border crossings,” said Garett Reppenhagen, regional coordinator for Vet Voice Foundation and a U.S. Army veteran who served as a cavalry scout sniper in Kosovo and Iraq.
“The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument will benefit the communities of southern New Mexico by boosting economic activity, providing a place for service men and women to recreate and recuperate, preserving important pieces of United States history, and ensuring that the beautiful landscape of the region will not be harmed,” said General Anderson. “I applaud President Obama and Secretary Jewell for listening to the people of southern New Mexico and for working to see that this area received a national monument designation.”
Vet Voice Foundation has also undertaken a multi-media effort to highlight why protecting public lands such as the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Monument is so important to the nation's veterans and their families.