Napolitano unveils new border security initiatives

Published 25 March 2009

With the increasing lawlessness and violence in Mexico spilling into the United States, DHS launches new security initiative along the U.S.-Mexico border — and inside Mexico

DHS secretary Janet Napolitano yesterday outlined her agency’s three-part plan to secure the border against escalating drug violence in Mexico, calling for added federal enforcement personnel, robust intelligence, and better coordination with partners in state, local, and Mexican law enforcement. “This issue requires immediate action,” said Napolitano. “We are guided by two very clear objectives. First, we are going to do everything we can to prevent the violence in Mexico from spilling over across the border. And second, we will do all in our power to help [Mexican] President [Felipe] Calderón crack down on these drug cartels in Mexico.”

The White House’s National Security Council and Homeland Security Council will coordinate the broader border response plan, which will also involve the departments of Defense, Justice, State, and Treasury along with Homeland Security.

The southwest border security initiative is estimated to cost $184 million, but DHS said it will be “revenue neutral” as agencies shift funding to pay for the initiative. The plan, according to DHS, will send 360 additional officers and agents both to the U.S. border and inside Mexico. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Border Enforcement Security Task Force staff will double, border intelligence agents will triple, and ICE agents inside Mexico will increase by 50 percent from 24 to 36 agents. The agency will quadruple the number of border liaison officers to improve relations and information-sharing with Mexican law enforcement.

DHS also will direct more resources to state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies at the border. Ted Sexton, assistant DHS secretary for state and local law enforcement, is visiting border communities’ police and sheriffs to establish local collaboration and coordination with the department. DHS also holds bi-monthly classified conference calls with local authorities to share intelligence, according to the agency.

Screening technology will also feature prominently in the plan as DHS rolls out more X-ray units, license plate readers, and canine teams, which can sniff out both guns and money, at the border.

The White House said the broader border security plan involving multiple departments will supplement the already $700 million approved by lawmakers for Mexico’s drug war this year under the Merida Initiative.