|WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., Wednesday said he planned to request additional funding to boost resources and personnel for law enforcement officers and investigators working to halt the flow of drugs and guns across the southern border that fuels ruthless violence among Mexican drug cartels.
At a hearing entitled “Southern Border Violence: Homeland Security Threats, Vulnerabilities, and Responsibilities,” Lieberman said he would work with Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., and Committee Member John McCain, R-Ariz., to increase the number of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigators, to step up investigations and enforcement actions, and to improve coordination of the various federal agencies working at the southern border.
The hearing came one day after the Obama Administration announced an initiative to combat southern border violence, primarily by redeploying Homeland Security and Justice Department resources to concentrate more on the southern border.
“The Administration’s latest response to the southwest border violence represents a significant first step forward,” Lieberman said. “But I don’t think it is enough. We need to concentrate more resources and personnel at the border. “The bottom line is that we must do everything within our power to help the Mexican government disable the cartels and prevent them from exporting more of their brutality to our own communities. Our government is really mobilized, but it’s going to be a long fight.”
Collins said: “The increase in violence along our southern border is troubling, and the United States must do its part to prevent the flow of weapons and cash that contribute to the reign of terror by drug cartels in Mexico. I look forward to receiving further information from DHS about the details about its Southwest border plan, including how it will affect our overall border strategy.”
Among the added resources Lieberman discussed were:
• $250 million for 1,600 additional CBP agents
He also expressed interest in boosting funding for the Justice Departments Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agency, which investigates illegal gun sales and gun smuggling. And he said he would begin looking into ways to give federal officials authority to investigate and confiscate stored value cards, which are increasingly being used by the Mexican drug cartels to smuggle money earned from their illicit drug sales in the U.S. back into Mexico. These cards can hold tens of thousands of dollars. Yet, they are not considered legal monetary instruments, do not have to be declared at the border, and border officials have little authority to police them.
“President Calderon’s gutsy leadership in battling the drug cartels has provided the United States with an unprecedented opportunity to collaborate with him and the people of Mexico to weaken the cartels that threaten the people of both of our countries. In our interest and theirs, we must seize this opportunity,” Lieberman said.
A follow up hearing is planned for April 20 in Phoenix, Arizona, which ranks second in the world after Mexico City for kidnappings.