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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A U.S. lawmaker says loopholes in federal laws have left authorities with little leverage in seeking the return of tribal religious items that are illegal to trade in the United States but sell for thousands of dollars in foreign markets.

The comments Tuesday by U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, a New Mexico Democrat, came during a field hearing in Albuquerque, where tribal leaders and representatives of several federal agencies — including the U.S. State, Interior and Justice departments — are delivering testimony.

Heinrich has sponsored legislation in the Senate seeking to broaden the scope of a federal law designed to crack down on looting, trafficking and exporting of federally protected Native American items.

The legislation would prohibit dealers from exporting protected Native Americans items of cultural or historical importance for tribes to international markets.

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