|WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., said Monday, in a field hearing held in Phoenix, Arizona, that he would work for additional funding for law enforcement officers and investigators working to halt the flow of drugs and guns across the southern border. Mexican drug cartels have fueled ruthless violence south of the border and Phoenix ranks second in the world in the number of kidnappings per year, behind only Mexico City.
Arizona Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl also attended the hearing. The hearing is the second in a series that Lieberman has been holding to spotlight drug violence along the southern border. The first was held March 25 in Washington.
“DHS is redeploying resources to the border to step up the detection of firearms and cash bound for Mexico and drugs and undocumented aliens bound for the U.S.,” Senator Lieberman said. “I am determined to expand the resources available to DHS, the Department of Justice, and state and local law enforcement agencies in the border region to take on the cartels in the most forceful way we can.”
"Today the committee visited Arizona to hear directly from local and state elected officials and law enforcement officers who have the difficult job of securing the safety of the citizens of Arizona," said Senator McCain. "Despite their outstanding efforts, the United States will not be safe until the Federal government secures the border. We must do more to stop the flow of drugs, money laundering, and illegal immigration across the Southwest border. Additional federal action is urgently needed, including sending National Guard troops to patrol the border as supported by the state’s governor, Senator Kyl, and myself. The failure of the Federal government to secure the border puts the safety and security of Arizona’s citizens and our Nation at risk each and every day."
“More than half of the illegal drugs trafficked to the United States are smuggled through the Mexico-Arizona border, and we’ve seen an increase in violence related to this activity,” said Senator Kyl. “I appreciate the time the local officials and law enforcement officers have taken today to help us in Congress better understand the situation they face. After hearing their testimony and firsthand accounts, I am confident we will return to Washington with a reaffirmed commitment to providing the necessary criminal justice resources to help stop this increase in drug-related violence.”
On April 1, Senator Lieberman and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., won Senate passage of an amendment to the budget resolution, providing an additional $550 million for law enforcement, communications and anti-smuggling efforts dedicated to fighting the drug cartels. Senator Lieberman will be offering an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2009 emergency supplemental appropriations bill that would increase the resources available to fight violence along the southern border.
Lieberman also plans to push for legislation giving federal officials authority to investigate and confiscate stored value cards. These cards, which can hold tens of thousands of dollars, are increasingly being used by the Mexican drug cartels to smuggle money earned from their illegal drug sales in the U.S. back into Mexico. Despite the large amounts of money they hold, 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.
Witnesses at the hearing were: Janice Brewer, Governor of Arizona; Terry Goddard, Arizona Attorney General; Phil Gordon, Mayor of Phoenix; Octavio Garcia-Von Borstel, Mayor of Nogales, Arizona; Ned Norris Jr., Chairman of Tohono O’odham Nation; Jack Harris, Phoenix Public Safety Manager; Clarence Dupnik, Sherrif, Pima County, Arizona; and Larry Dever, Sherrif, Cochise County, Arizona.