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$600 Million for Agents and Equipment

Written by Jennifer Gavigan

Determined to show a commitment to stopping the flow of illegal immigrants, the Senate convened a special session and passed a $600 million bill to put more agents and equipment along the Mexican border. President Barack Obama urged Congress to channel more money toward border security amid complaints from states besieged by undocumented immigrants and illegal drug trafficking.

Senator Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the chief sponsor, said the measure would provide President Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano with the resources necessary to combat the crime and violence. The President said the bill would help protect communities along the Southwest border and across the country.

House Democrats also called a special session, summoning lawmakers back from their summer break to pass the border security bill.

The border security measure would fund the hiring of 1,000 new border patrol agents to be deployed at critical areas along the border, 250 more immigration and customs enforcement agents and 250 more customs and border protection officers.

It provides for new communications equipment and greater use of unmanned surveillance drones. There are currently seven such drones along the border. Almost one-third of the money goes to the Justice Department to help agencies such as the FBI, the DEA and the ATF deal with drug dealers and human traffickers.

The bill is paid for by raising fees on foreign-based personnel companies that use U.S. visa programs, including the popular H-1B program, to bring skilled workers to the United States. Representatives from India said higher fees would discriminate against its companies and workers.

Arizona Republican Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl called the legislation a start. But, in a statement, they said the bill fell short by not dramatically increasing the number of customs inspectors along the Arizona border, and by not funding a program that charges illegal immigrants with a low-level crime and requires them to spend time in jail.

Arizona has been at the epicenter of the border security debate since it passed a law directing law enforcement officers to be more aggressive in seeking out illegal immigrants. Although a federal judge has since struck down some of the law’s major provisions, it remains a rallying cry for those who say Washington has lost control of the border.

Jennifer Gavigan is the editor of Public Safety IT and a frequent contributor to LAW and ORDER. She can be reached at jgavigan@hendonpub.com

Published in Law and Order, Sep 2010

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