Lawmakers to add $550 million to Mexico border security

Published 1 April 2009

The two leaders of the Senate homeland Security Committee introduce legislation to channel another $550 million for more federal agents, investigators, and technological improvements

Citing the “exploding” threat posed by Mexican drug cartels, U.S. lawmakers pushed Tuesday for beefing up efforts to dam up the southward flow of guns and money to the syndicates from U.S. sources. AFP reports that Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-Connecticut) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced legislation to channel another $550 million for more federal agents, investigators, and technological improvements.

Lieberman cited the “mind-boggling” spread of the problem to an estimated 230 U.S. cities from Arctic neighbor Alaska to the rural southwestern states, as he pushed for a budget amendment to respond to “urgent” security needs. “The Mexican drug cartels are a clear and present danger to the U.S. and that fact compels us to provide our federal law enforcement agencies with additional funding,” said Lieberman, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

Collins, the panel’s top Republican, said the threat was “exploding” and pointed to U.S. Department of Justice estimates three years ago that the cartels’ tendrils reached into about 100 U.S. cities.

Asked whether the measure had enough votes to pass, Lieberman said there was “broad concern” among his colleagues about the crisis and that he hoped the full Senate would vote on this amendment on Wednesday.

With an estimated 90 percent of the cartels’ guns coming from the United States, Lieberman said he favored tougher U.S. gun laws, including restrictions on fully automatic firearms and on sales at informal gun shows. Collins, however, underline that shipping U.S. firearms across the Mexican border was “already an illegal activity” and said she favored tighter enforcement of existed U.S. gun laws. The amendment includes:

  • $260 million for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to hire, train, equip, and deploy 1,600 officers and 400 canine team to toughen border exit inspections
  • $130 million for 350 full-time Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigators to work on firearm trafficking and money laundering investigations
  • $20 million would aim to improve field communications between the border patrol and immigration authorities
  • $20 million to modernize technology to identify potential criminals at ports of entry
  • $50 million dollars to the U.S. Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) agency to hire an additional 150 investigators and 50 inspectors to investigate firearms trafficking at the Mexican border.

Efforts to help local law enforcement in border areas, fight human trafficking, and boost staffing at the US embassy in Mexico would also get new funding.

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