10:15 PM EDT

John Carter, R-TX 31st

Mr. CARTER. Madam Chairman, this is an amendment that was put together to ensure that the Interior Department prioritize its efforts to construct a joint law enforcement center in national parks and recreation areas along the southern border of the United States with available funds.

National Park lands on our southern border have experienced a gigantic increase in the amount of illegal activity that has crossed into our park lands. The reason for this is very similar to grabbing a bean bag and squeezing it; it always bulges out at some point. As we start tightening our southern border with a lot of the efforts that have been bipartisan efforts by this Congress, it causes the people who are wanting to have illegal activity to move farther and farther out into the rural areas

and into the unoccupied areas, and they're moving into our national parks.

Joint law enforcement centers will be available to serve the National Park Service law enforcement agency, the United States Customs and Border Patrol, possibly even the Coast Guard when they're on the river at that border, and other Federal, State, or local law enforcement agencies as may be needed.

This is something that has been discussed; it has been agreed upon; it has been approved. Additional rangers and Border Patrol officers have been added to our border and been assigned and are being compensated for working down there, but they lack serious facilities within which to be able to operate.

One example is when we sent a group down to take a look at what other needs might be on our southern border, we ran across eight Border Patrol officers that were working in a temporary facility that was 288 square feet. This is absolutely inadequate. And if they were working in conjunction with the Park Service, there was no place for the Park Service to even stand in the building.

The purpose of this amendment is to dedicate $1 million to the National Park Service construction funds for FY 2012 to jump-start the interagency project already agreed upon between the Departments of Interior and Homeland Security. We are confident that with this shot in the arm we will be able to get these centers, as they may be available, constructed.

And it's not just a place for these folks to work; but if you take a look at most of our southern border from all the way across, you will see that, if there is no place to hold prisoners when they're captured doing illegal activities, then you have to transport them. In many instances, this transportation is 150 miles to a place where they can be secured. And these would also allow at least for temporary detention so that we wouldn't have Border Patrol officers running back and forth 150 miles

every time there's a detention needed.

This is a facility that really will aid what we've already provided, which is personnel to help defend our southern border. It is budget neutral, and I would respectfully request that this be adopted.

10:19 PM EDT

Jim Moran, D-VA 8th

Mr. MORAN. I am not necessarily rising to oppose this, but to point out some deficiencies in the amendment itself. The claim is that the purpose of the amendment is to ensure that the National Park Service prioritizes its construction of law enforcement centers on national park lands, on the southern border in coordination with the Department of Homeland Security.

First of all, there is some feeling that national parks not have basically prison sites on them because what happens is that when people are rounded up by the Border Patrol, they are taken to these law enforcement centers and detained until they--I don't know whether they are adjudicated or not, but then eventually they are moved to another place. But they are temporarily detained at these law enforcement centers, and there is some feeling that national parks are not an appropriate location for

that purpose.

But the very wording of the amendment doesn't really do that. It increases money, then it decreases the same amount of money. If it did it, it would be an earmark. And, of course, we don't do earmarks in this bill.

So as I say, I don't rise in opposition because I'm not sure what the amendment does, but I think it is helpful to be informed as to what it doesn't do.

10:21 PM EDT

John Carter, R-TX 31st

Mr. CARTER. I thank the gentleman.

It is my understanding that this joint agreement, as we saw the acceleration of park rangers, and you're right, quite honestly, I don't think anywhere on the southern border people want illegal activity to be going on on our recreational areas, wherever they might be located. And nobody is trying to warehouse prisoners in a national park.

It is hard to envision this facility, but it would be a facility, I would assume, sort of like some of the facilities you see in other locations where people are operating out of it, but they have a temporary detention holding cell.

This would be strictly--and maybe I can explain it by pointing out one of the problems we have on the border with the transportation of our prisoners. And, in fact, one of the things that we used our National Guard for when we did have to transfer prisoners when they were working on the border, there always has to be someone having this prisoner in custody. Whatever the accused crime is, they have to be in custody.

When we had limited resources, we bumped them up. But they take a trained border patrolman whose duty it is to protect our border, if he's the only person available, and he has to transport that prisoner because there's no facility to temporarily hold him in. And when I say ``temporarily,'' it could be hours or maybe even minutes until someone can come along to help transport. If he's alone, then he has to transport him 150 miles. That's 3 hours that officer is off his post to make the transport.

So that's a little, tiny part for the purpose of this facility. This facility is really for a working space for those resources that we have already beefed up and put down on the border, and both Interior and Homeland have made agreements and really it is kind of just a kick to get them started. I believe we will see funding come from both sources to finish the project.

10:23 PM EDT

Jim Moran, D-VA 8th

Mr. MORAN. Reclaiming my time, I understand that the gentleman wants to make that point. I understand the challenges that are faced in the area that he represents.

I was similarly confused, though, when there was a substantial amendment to strip funding for environmental mitigation between the Homeland Security and Interior Departments that the gentleman previously suggested and, I think, was successful in doing. So I don't know, it's not an area that I'm particularly familiar with. I am becoming more familiar with it; but, again, I'm not sure that this amendment does anything other than draw attention to the issue.

I yield back the balance of my time.

The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Carter).

The amendment was agreed to.