|Washington, D.C. – Dear Chairmans Inouye, Byrd, and Mikulski and Ranking Members Cochran, Voinovich, and Shelby:
Thank you for affording us the opportunity to provide our views regarding the nation’s border security needs. We hope the following recommendations and comments will assist you as the Appropriations Committee and its Subcommittees deliberate on the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill that the President has requested.
The Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs has been engaged in a series of hearings and investigations analyzing the threat posed to homeland security by the violence in Mexico, which has claimed over 7,200 lives since the beginning of 2008 and which is increasingly targeting Mexican government officials. During a hearing the Committee held on March 25th , Deputy Attorney General Ogden testified that the Mexican drug cartels were the number one organized crime threat in America, having supplanted the Mafia, and that they distributed narcotics to over 230 cities across the United States reaching as far as Anchorage, Alaska. We have learned that these networks are heavily armed, that they have operatives in cities across the United States, and that they deploy sophisticated communications and transportation networks. As federal agencies succeed in increasing their cost of doing business, the cartels and human smuggling networks have increasingly begun targeting each other through kidnappings, home invasions, and loadstealing in the United States. The city of Phoenix, for example, has recorded over 700 kidnappings over the past two years. Although it does not appear that the grisly violence the cartels have perpetrated in Mexico has spilled across the border, we are concerned that these criminal networks have the potential to inflict significant damage on U.S. interests should their rational calculation about the potential costs associated with a U.S. crackdown change.
The President’s emergency supplemental request acknowledges the threat posed by the Mexican drug cartels by requesting $350 million in counternarcotics funding for the Department of Defense. We are encouraged by this recognition of the dire threat posed by
While we are heartened that the Senate has included this funding as a priority for FY2010, the need for additional funding for these programs is urgent and cannot wait until the next fiscal year. On Tuesday, March 24th the White House announced a new initiative aimed at addressing the violence in Mexico and interdicting the cartels’ operations in the United States. The plan focused on redeploying existing assets within DOl and DHS to the border region and includes the following components:
• Additional ATF, DEA, and ICE investigators will be detailed to the border region to examine drug, gun, and bulk cash smuggling,
• Increased federal participation in fusion centers along the border, including the ICE led Border Enforcement Security Teams, to enhance information sharing between the federal government and state and local law enforcement agencies.
• Additional DHS investigative and liaison staff detailed to Mexico and the border region to collaborate with Mexican authorities
• Increased southbound inspections at the Ports, including the deployment of additional teams of dogs, Border Patrol agents, and license plate scanners.
These resources were redeployed to the border from communities across the United States-from many ofthe 230 cities identified by DOJ in which the Mexican drug cartels are operating. We are also concerned that this redeployment may leave other parts of the country understaffed and vulnerable to increased crime associated with the cartels. We believe that additional resources have to be appropriated to make this redeployment viable and to ensure that our law enforcement agencies have the resources they need to take on the cartels.
In order to address these issues, we urge you to begin the process of funding this initiative by adding $275 million in funding to the emergency supplemental for these purposes:
1. $90 million for CBP to hire, train, equip, and deploy 600 additional officers at the ports of entry and 150 canine teams and to provide them with temporary infrastructure to conduct exit inspections. We believe that the staffing levels at the ports of entry have not kept up with demand over the past five years, increasing by only 15% even as the Border Patrol has seen its staffing level between the ports of entry double. This is troubling, in part, because this lack of attention has resulted in the curtailing of exit inspections, which used to be undertaken more frequently. This, in turn, has allowed the cartels and human smuggling networks practically free rein to smuggle guns and cash back to Mexico in order to fuel their illicit activities and their war against the Calderon Administration. This funding would provide CBP with the resources to better interdict the cartels’ activities. The additional officers and canine teams will dramatically improve CBP’s ability to undertake systematic exit inspections to search for illegal shipments of guns and cash to Mexico. Additionally, there is currently no infrastructure, temporary or permanent, to help CBP officers conduct exit inspections securely. This funding level would also provide for the acquisition of jersey barriers, temporary awnings, other such temporary infrastructure, and personal safety equipment to ensure that CBP officers are protected from the elements and from wrongdoers as they conduct these inspections.
2. $70 million for ICE to hire, train, and deploy an additional 200 investigators to work on arms and cash smuggling investigations, to backfill positions that were transferred to the border, and to double the number of Border Enforcement Security Teams along the southwest border. We are concerned that redeploying roughly 200 investigators to the border region leaves the interior of the country understaffed. This is a concern because, as Deputy Attorney General David Ogden noted before the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on March 25th , the cartels are active in over 230 cities and have supplanted the Mafia as the number one organized crime threat in the United States. We cannot afford to curtail investigations in the interior of the country given the pervasive threat the cartels represent. For this reason, we propose providing ICE with funding to backfill the investigators that have been transferred to the border and to continue to expand its investigations into money laundering and firearms trafficking in the border region. This funding will also allow ICE to permanently double the number of Border Enforcement Security Teams at the border; these teams bring together all the federal, state, and local law enforcement entities in a region to share information about ongoing investigations and better coordinate their activities to target the cartels more effectively. We also ask that language be included in the supplemental directing ICE to ensure that proactive coordination is taking place in the field with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and with Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). We have been concerned about the lack of coordination between these agencies at the field level, and believe that this is intolerable given the magnitude of the threat posed by the cartels.
3. $25 million for ATFto hire, train, and deploy an additional 75 investigators and 25 inspectors working on Project Gunrunner. We are concerned that the agency does not have enough agents and inspectors to adequately confront the issue of firearms
4. $5 million for the Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center, to expand their operations and investigations, increase staffing levels, and reimburse other federal departments for personnel. We are concerned that not enough federal attention has been paid to the epidemic of kidnappings and home invasions in Phoenix, which were a central topic in a field hearing held by the Committee on April 20. While some of these incidents are related to drug smuggling, many of them occur when individuals smuggled into the country are subsequently held against their will while their families are extorted for more money. This center is a vital component of the federal response to human smuggling and can provide state and local law enforcement with desperately needed intelligence on the human smuggling networks that are behind much of the crime currently taking place in the border region. The additional funding will ensure that the federal agencies involved have the adequate resources and representation at the center to improve their
5. $35 million for Operation Stonegarden and $15 million for grants to support state and local law enforcement agencies located along the southern border and in High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas. Operation Stonegarden has provided critical funding for state and local law enforcement to participate in joint border security operations with the Border Patrol. However, it is essential that state and local law enforcement be integrated into efforts to address smuggling along the southwest border as well. We are concerned that many state and local law enforcement agencies simply do not have the resources to participate in the many federally driven fusion centers in the border region, including the BESTs. We can expand these fusion centers to every city and town in the border region, but if state and local law enforcement agencies are unable to participate because they do not have the funding to detail an officer to these centers then we have not made an impact. The $50 million in funding provided for Operation Stonegarden ($35 million) and for the state and local law enforcement in High Intensity Drug Trafficking areas ($15 million) will allow these agencies to become more engaged in the fight against the cartels by staffing up their forces to better investigate drug, cash, guns, and human smuggling and to fully participating in the fusion centers along the border region.
6. $5 million for the Office of International Affairs and the Management Directorate at DHS to expand their coordination with the Mexican government and their staffing and oversight of the Merida Initiative. We have been concerned that DHS does not have the resources to effectively manage its relationship with the Mexican government and to oversee its participation in the Merida Initiative. For example, the DHS attache to the U.S. Embassy in Mexico until very recently had no support staff, and continues to depend on other agencies or office space. In order to provide effective oversight for DHS’ activities in conjunction with Merida and the Mexican government, we believe that DHS needs additional staff both in Washington DC and in Mexico. This funding would allow DHS to expand its coordination with the Mexican government, which will be particularly important given the White House initiative’s focus on expanding the presence of ICE in Mexico.
7. $20 Million to the U.S. Marshalls’ Service to hire 80 additional Marshalls and to expand and modernize holding facilities in courthouses along the southwest border. This funding would be used to hire Marshals that would provide the services needed for the additional court production, transportation, judicial security, housing, and warrant enforcement associated with the increased prisoner population from the investigations generated by the increases in ICE agents and ATF investigators.
8. $10 Million to the judicial Conference of the United States for additional Magistrate judges, probation and pretrial services officers, clerks, office staff, fees of jurors, attorneys for indigent defendants, court security and related expenses. This funding will ccommodate the increased case loads generated by prosecutions resulting from the additional investigations undertaken by ICE and ATF along the border and ensure that the court system does not become a bottleneck in the judicial process. With these funds, as caseloads grow the judicial Conference will be able to apply resources in a timely fashion to address the additional workload needs of the courts. The funding identified above will ensure that DHS and DOj are able to fully meet the grave threat posed by the drug artels and human smuggling networks at the border while not leaving the interior of the country at risk. While Secretary Napolitano testified before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security that the White House’s initiative was designed to be budget neutral, she also noted that she had to play the hand that she was dealt. We need to strengthen that hand significantly to meet the challenge posed by the cartels, and we urge the Appropriations Committee to include $275 million in funding for the purposes outlined above in the Emergency Supplemental.
We appreciate this opportunity to comment on issues of great concern to us and to all of our constituents. We certify that neither we nor our immediate family has a pecuniary interest in the congressionally directed spending items that we have requested from the
Michael F. Bennet