GOP seeking waiver of environmental laws at border

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Federal agents trying to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border say they're hampered by laws that keep them from driving vehicles on huge swaths of land because it falls under U.S. environmental protection, leaving it to wildlife — and illegal immigrants and smugglers who can walk through the territory undisturbed.

Environmental groups said lawmakers lining up to support the legislation have routinely opposed the Endangered Species Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and dozens of other laws, and they accused the lawmakers of using illegal immigration as the latest excuse to gut protections.

"For every problem that's out there in society, there's some extremists in Congress who say the solution is, 'Well, let's roll back the environmental laws, let's open up the public lands,'" said Paul Spitler, spokesman for the Wilderness Society. "It doesn't comport to reality, but it fits their mindset that it's simply the environmental regulations that are holding back America."