|WASHINGTON–Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joseph Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., will introduce an amendment to the Budget Resolution (S. Con. Res. 13) Tuesday to significantly bolster U.S. efforts to fight violence caused by Mexican drug cartels along the U.S.-Mexican border.
The amendment calls for an additional $550 million for federal agents, investigators, and resources to stem the flow of drugs smuggled north into the U.S. and the flow of money and guns south into Mexico. It comes a week after the Obama Administration announced an initiative to redeploy more federal agents to the border.
“Department of Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano said the Administration’s plan was budget neutral,” Lieberman said. “But 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. The Secretary also said that she had to ‘play with the hand she was dealt.’ This amendment would dramatically improve that hand, and I urge my fellow Senators to support it.”
Collins said: “The U.S. government has invested significant resources to prevent drugs from entering the United States. But, until recently, it has focused only limited resources on the supply of money and weapons going south to fuel the drug war. This amendment would provide critical resources to supplement those efforts already underway on our southwest border to combat drug, gun, and cash smuggling by the drug cartels in Mexico. It also would help ensure that state and local law enforcement have the support they need and are integrated into federal efforts to stop smuggling.”
The amendment includes $260 million for Customs and Border Protection to hire, train, equip, and deploy 1,600 officers and 400 canine teams to the border to significantly increase the number of exit inspections. It also includes:
• $130 million to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for 350 full time investigators to work on firearm trafficking and money laundering investigations;
• $20 million for DHS to improve the tactical communications in the field for CBP and ICE;
• $20 million for CBP to modernize its database used to identify potential criminals at the ports of entry;
• $30 million for Operation Stonegarden to reimburse state and local law enforcement for their participation in border actions;
• $50 million to the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agency to hire an additional 150 investigators and 50 inspectors to investigate firearms trafficking at the Mexican border;
• $10 million to provide assistance and equipment to local law enforcement along the Southern border and in the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas to combat criminal narcotics activity;
• $20 million for the Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center at DHS to better coordinate investigations between federal, state, and local law enforcement;
• $10 million for DHS’ Office of International Affairs and the Undersecretary for Management to oversee implementation of the Merida Initiative and to increase its staffing at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico.
On March 25, 2009, the Committee held a hearing on drug cartel violence in the border region and the Obama Administration’s plan to fight it. A follow-up hearing will be held April 20 in Phoenix, Ariz.