Randy Metcalf/The Explorer

After being sworn into office Tuesday, it didn't take Congressman Ron Barber long to get to work. Crossing party lines, Barber supported a bill that will increase Border Patrol ability to pursue smugglers along US-Mexico Border

U.S. Rep. Ron Barber, shortly after he was sworn into office, today voted for legislation that would give the U.S. Border Patrol increased authority to pursue smugglers who operate on land along the U.S.-Mexico Border.

“Border security is the No. 1 priority for the people who live and work along our nation’s southern border,” Barber said today. “There is no doubt that this bill will make our borders more secure. But this legislation is far from perfect and I will work to make changes as it moves through the process.”

The National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act was included in The Conservation and Economic Growth Act which passed on a 232-to-188 vote. Joining Barber in voting to pass the bill were Arizona Reps. Jeff Flake, Paul Gosar, Trent Franks, Ben Quayle and David Schweikert.

Although Barber voted to pass the bill, he earlier voted against a motion that prohibited House members from voting on additional amendments to the bill.

The bill included an amendment offered by Rep. Bob Bishop of Utah that would reduce the number of exemptions from environmental and land use laws provided to the Homeland Security Department to conduct border security activities within 100 miles of the border.

The amendment would require Homeland Security to continue observing provisions of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. It also includes language to clarify that the bill does not infringe on the existing rights of tribal government nor would it prohibit the use of lands for legally authorized purposes, such as hunting, grazing or mining.

The bill, as now written, creates a 100-mile operational control zone along the northern and southern land borders of the United States to be under the control of the Department of Homeland Security. The bill now goes to the Senate.

Gary Thrasher, a veterinarian and prominent Southern Arizona rancher, supported passage of the bill and testified in favor of it last year in a hearing before the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands.

“This shows that Ron is his own man,” Thrasher said today. “It takes a lot of guts to buck the system. When he votes, Ron is thinking of his constituents and working to make sure our border is secure.”

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