U.S. to Redirect Resources to Southern Border to Stop Spillover Violence From Mexico
The White House is announcing a new $700 million program aimed at stopping Mexico violence from entering the U.S.
The Fox News, March 24, 2009
The Department of Homeland Security is doubling the number of law enforcement working along the Southwest border — from 50 to 100 agents to deal with the recent uptick in violence relating to drug cartels in Mexico.
DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano said Tuesday that she is considering sending the National Guard to the border, but has not made a decision yet.
Napolitano said the goal of increased U.S. efforts along the border is twofold: to provide assistance to Mexico to break up the large cartels conducting what is essentially a drug war in Mexico and to guard against an increase in violence against the U.S. as a result of this war.
Mexico's drug violence has killed thousands in the past two years as gangs battle each other for territory and fight off a government crackdown.
The goal is to help the government of Mexico break up 'huge cartels which are funneling tonnage quantities of illegal drugs into our country on a regular basis and are conducting this war of violence in Mexico that has resulted into 6,000 homicides, over 550 of which were assassinations on law enforcement and public office personnel,' she said
The recent moves are part of a $700 million plan for securing the southern border with Mexico. The plan includes 'redeploying' existing personnel from immigration enforcement, work site enforcement and possibly even customs enforcement to help prevent spillover violence.
President Obama is concerned about the increased level of violence, particularly in Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana, and the impact that it is having on the communities on both sides of the border, U.S. Deputy Attorney General David Ogden.
'He believes that the United States must continue to monitor the situation and guard against spillover into the United States. And the president is firmly committed to ensuring our borders are secure and we are doing all we can to reduce illegal flows in both direction across the border,' Ogden said.
Working with the Department of Justice, DHS has announced eight components to fighting back against violence along the border, including doubling DHS presence in certain areas along the border; tripling intelligence analysts along border, likely centered in El Paso, Texas; and increasing Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel at the attache office in Mexico from 24 to 36 officials.
DHS is also increasing its technology and south-bound rail screening to look for guns going from the U.S. to Mexico. DHS will also increase its outreach to state and local law enforcement and grant programs aimed at law enforcement.
Violence associated with drug cartels in Mexico has become the chief national security issue for Mexico. On Tuesday, the Mexican government announced it is offering $2 million each for information leading to the arrest of 24 top drug lords in a public challenge to the cartels' violent grip on the country.
The list indicated that drug gangs have splintered into six main cartels under pressure from the U.S. and Mexico. The two most powerful gangs, the Sinaloa and Gulf cartels each suffered fractures that have given rise to new cartels, according to the attorney general.
The Justice Department is going to treat the Mexican cartels like they treated criminal organizations such as the Italian mob — using certain laws to target them.
The FBI is also creating a Southwest Intelligence Group to serve as a clearinghouse of all FBI activities involving Mexico and is increasing its focus on public corruption, kidnappings, and extortion relating to border issues. It is also recommitting itself to the Central American Fingerprint Exchange initiative, which was developed to collect, store and integrate biometric data from El Salvador, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and the Mexican state of Chiapas as well as the Transnational Anti-Gang initiative, which coordinates the sharing of gang intelligence between the U.S. and El Salvador, where the gang MS-13 originated.
The Drug Enforcement Administration will add 16 new agents to its 11 offices along the southwest border region, and the Justice Department will create four new 'mobile enforcement teams' in Chicago, Atlanta, Phoenix and El Paso.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is creating 37 new positions for 'Project Gunrunner' to keep guns from going to Mexico. ATF has helped bring in 1,500 defendants on charges involving 12,000 weapons.
U.S. Marshals are going to Mexico to help authorities pick up and bring back cartel leaders to prosecute and the Justice Department is going to create a Southwest intelligence group located in El Paso to focus on public corruption and kidnapping.
Treasury has also made targeting the financial networks of Mexican drug trafficking organizations a top priority and is collaborating with the Mexican government to analyze cross-border cash flows to try to distinguish legitimate activity from drug money laundering and other illicit transactions.
New border strategy stops short of sending troops
By Bridget Johnson
The Hill (Washington, DC), March 24, 2009
The Obama administration unveiled a new border security strategy Tuesday that places heavy emphasis on stopping guns going into Mexico, but stops short of sending troops to the border.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that the changes have been crafted since President Obama met in January with his counterpart, Mexican President Felipe Calderon, and come in the wake of concerns about drug-fueled violence spilling into the United States.
The new strategy will include doubling the amount of law enforcement personnel stationed at the border, beefing up teams that are composed of state, local and federal officials working in tandem.
Even though border-state Govs. Rick Perry (R-Texas) and Jan Brewer (R-Ariz.) had requested more National Guard troops, they weren't included in Tuesday's plan. Napolitano said Tuesday that the option would still be on the table and that she'd discuss the request further with Perry.
Obama has previously said that sending troops to the border to quell violence would be a last resort. The Guard had limited engagement powers during its Bush-administration border deployment to stem illegal immigration.
Napolitano said that the effort to stop arms shipments from heading south will receive a shot in the arm. These measures will include:
* Tripling the number of Homeland Security intelligence analysts
* Increasing the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) attachs in Mexico by 50 percent, most to be stationed in Mexico City to work with the Mexican government
* Tasking the Treasury Department with ratcheting up its effort to break up money laundering operations
* Doubling the number of agents at the border tasked with pinpointing violent, recidivist criminal aliens
* Quadrupling the number of border liaison officers
Napolitano also said the plan would 'significantly increase' the use of 'biometric enforcement,' making sure that inmates are properly run through ICE databases.
Added security measures involving transportation are also part of the strategy. Napolitano said rail screening would be increased to intercept weapons headed into Mexico, and mobile X-rays would be moved to the border to identify vehicles carrying arms into Mexico.
The administration also plans to add 16 new Drug Enforcement Administration positions in the Southwest region on top of the more than 1,000 agents already working the border, and plans to send 100 more Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives staff to the border over the next month and a half.
Obama is scheduled to travel to Mexico next month to meet with Calderon.
The Obama administration said Tuesday that it is sending more agents and equipment to the southwestern U.S. border to combat Mexican drug cartels.
By Spencer S. Hsu and Joby Warrick
The Washington Post, March 24, 2009