Desert Invasion - U.S.

The environmental cost of illegal immigration - Witnesses testify at Santee hearing

By Elizabeth Fitzsimons, San Diego Union-Tribune

Illegal immigrants [criminal illegal aliens], on their journey from the border, leave behind trash and human waste that can seep into soil and water and harm wildlife.

The federal agents who pursue them do their own damage to the environment. The low-flying helicopters and off-road vehicles disturb wildlife and destroy habitat.

The extent of damage to federal lands and what can be done about it was the topic of discussion yesterday at a hearing of the House Committee on Resources, the third of its kind to be held in San Diego County to discuss illegal immigration.

The two-hour meeting at West Hills High School in Santee began at 10 a.m. and was attended by about 100 people. The hearing chairman was Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., and was attended by Rep. George Radanovich, R-Mariposa, and Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Carlsbad.

Giving testimony were representatives from the Bureau of Land Management; Border Patrol; Gulf South Research Corp., an environmental consulting firm; Off-Road Business Association; Western Growers, an agricultural trade association; as well as a Jamul equestrian and a New Mexico rancher.

Witnesses cited the recent Horse fire, which burned 17,000 acres in East County and was believed to have been caused by a campfire set by border crossers, as an example of the harm being done to the environment.

They also described the trash, including plastic bags used as makeshift boots, that are discarded and piled up....

Judy Keeler, who owns two ranches with her husband in New Mexico, told of how immigrants [criminal illegal aliens] cross her property, littering and scaring the cattle from water troughs....

She suggested building a fence, increasing Border Patrol activity and installing cameras to monitor traffic....

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