U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano made a series of border announcements today that highlight recent DHS efforts to crack down on illegal immigration and contraband trafficking in order to increase the mutual security of the United States and Mexico.
"The Department of Homeland Security is stepping up efforts on every aspect of border security," said Secretary Napolitano. "Putting more personnel and better technology at the Southwest border will lead to enhanced enforcement. Stopping the flow of drugs, weapons and cash that fuel the drug war in Mexico and cracking down on illegal immigration will keep both the United States and Mexico safer."
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have seized approximately $60 million in U.S. currency, 700 firearms and 125,000 rounds of ammunition at the Southwest border as of early April. CBP's Office of Air and Marine has worked both independently and in coordination with CBP's Border Patrol to apprehend more than 23,000 illegal aliens, make nearly 600 arrests and seize more than 130,000 pounds of illegal drugs in the first half of fiscal year 2009.
The announcements came in Nogales, Ariz., during a press conference at the Mariposa Port of Entry as part of a three-stop tour of the Southwest border. Just hours before, in El Paso, Secretary Napolitano announced a formalized DHS Southwest border security plana follow-up to her March 24 announcement that DHS will move additional resources to the Southwest borderand the appointment of Alan Bersin as Assistant Secretary for International Affairs and Special Representative for Border Affairs.
Secretary Napolitano also highlighted the work of Border Enforcement Security Task Forcesteams comprised of federal, state, local and Mexican law enforcement authoritiesthat have seized nearly 16,000 pounds of marijuana, $3.6 million in U.S. currency and 219 firearms along the Southwest border so far in fiscal year 2009.
The Nogales-Mariposa Border Inspection Facility will benefit from the largest single port construction project funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). $212 million ($199 million from ARRA and $13 million in fiscal year appropriations) through the General Services Administration (GSA), will go toward overhauling inbound and outbound inspection lanes, booths and canopies; a new main building; a new non-intrusive inspection building; an export building and new head house; as well as kennels, commercial docks, enhanced site and building security and expanded parking capacity.
On April 1, Secretary Napolitano announced more than $400 million in ARRA funds for improvements along the Southwest border, including the allocation for Nogales-Mariposa Port of Entry and funds for port and infrastructure improvements in Antelope Wells, N.M., and Los Ebanos and Corpus Christi, Texas, in addition to $42 million for Non-Intrusive Inspection Equipment at Southwest border ports of entry and $100 million in SBInet funding for construction and communications improvements.
In El Paso, Secretary Napolitano emphasized DHS actions to address illegal immigration, resulting in 1.02 million apprehensions of illegal aliens in fiscal year 2008including nearly 800,000 along the Southwest border. ICE removed 369,000 illegal immigrants from the United States during the same time period, a 27 percent increase from fiscal year 2007. Secretary Napolitano also stopped in New Mexico for a tour of the Columbus port of entry before continuing on to Nogales.
Bersin's responsibilities at DHS will include improving relationships with the Department's partners in the international community, as well as those at the state and local level including elected officials, law enforcement, community organizations and religious leaders. He will lead the Department's efforts to crack down on violence along the Southwest border highlighted in Secretary Napolitano's March 24 announcement, including the deployment of additional personnel and enhanced technology to help Mexico target illegal guns, drugs and cash.