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ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — President Barack Obama on Wednesday declared almost a half-million acres of rugged desert terrain along the U.S.-Mexico border as a national monument, marking the largest swath of land to be set aside for that purpose since he took office.
While praised by environmentalists, the move is generating criticism from some lawmakers in the West and local law enforcement agents who see Obama’s use of power as a threat to security in a region where the influence of Mexican drug cartels, human smuggling and illegal immigration are all apparent.
House Speaker John Boehner and others also complained that the designation of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in southern New Mexico is the latest example of Obama taking unilateral action to sidestep Congress.
“Once again, the president has chosen to bypass the legislative branch — and, in this case, do so in a manner that adds yet another challenge in our ongoing efforts to secure our southern border,” Boehner said. “At a time of continued cartel violence in Mexico, we should not be putting any additional restraints on efforts to protect our borders.”
Officials with U.S. Customs and Border Protection said the designation will not limit their ability to perform the agency’s mission along the border.
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