Tue, Oct. 15

Obama seeks an extra $500 million for border security

PHOENIX -- The Southwest border would get 1,000 new Border Patrol agents and 160 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement Officers if Congress approves a request by President Obama for an extra $500 million for security.

Details of the plan, released Wednesday, also include new customs officers -- the people at the border crossings -- and two new unmanned aerial vehicles to help monitor border activities. There currently are three UAVs along the entire Southwest border.

In his letter to Congress, the president said he actually wants to spend $600 million "to secure the Southwest border and enhance federal border protection, law enforcement, and counternarcotics activities.

That extra $100 million, the president said, will come out of the budget for the "virtual fence' project which has been halted while the Department of Homeland Security determines if it actually could ever work.

The White House also said that a separate $100 million of lower priority projects for Homeland Security will be "repositioned' in the budget to replace and repair fences along the Southwest border.

All that, the president said, is on top of his decision to put 1,200 National Guard troops along the Southwest border. The $135 million to fund that operation, the White House said, will come out of "existing resources' in both the Department of Defense and Homeland Security.

The details about the president's budget request come just days before White House officials are scheduled to brief Gov. Jan Brewer on the president's plans to improve border security. They are scheduled to meet with the governor this coming Monday.

But nothing in Obama's letter to Congress provides specifics of where Obama intends to put those Guard soldiers, a detail Brewer also hopes to get on Monday.

The governor said the president told her during their June 3 face-to-face meeting that a "majority' of the troops would be placed in Arizona. So far, though, there has been no confirmation from the White House.

Obama, in his letter to Congress, is urging quick action on his funding proposal.

"This request responds to urgent and essential needs,' the president wrote. "Therefore I request these proposals be considered as emergency requirements.'

How quickly Congress will act remains unclear.

Republicans, including Sen. John McCain, have been critical of the president's plans, calling them too small a response to the situation.

McCain specifically said he wanted 6,000 National Guard soldiers, with half of them in Arizona. He also said Arizona alone needs 3,000 new Border Patrol agents.

In a prepared statement, McCain press aide Brooke Buchanan said Wednesday the announcement shows "it appears that the Obama Administration has finally realized that the border is not 'secure' as some Administration officials have stated.' She called the programs a good start but said they represent "only a fraction of what is needed to secure the border.'

Homeland Security says there already are 20,000 Border Patrol agents, double the number in 2004. About 17,000 of these agents are on the Southwest Border, with 4,000 in Arizona.

Not all the money Obama wants would be going directly to Homeland Security.

The plan calls for $201 million for the U.S. Department of Justice to hire new agents for the Drug Enforcement Agency and provide them with equipment support. Those funds also would finance the hiring of new attorneys and immigration judges, as well as new jails to house "criminal aliens.'

And some of the cash will benefit Mexico, at least indirectly, with the U.S. government providing support in the form of analyzing DNA and ballistics and providing technical assistance.

Obama's first announcement of the additional soldiers and supplemental request came in the wake of passage of a new Arizona law which is designed to help crack down on illegal immigration. While the White House denied any direct link, even state Attorney General Terry Goddard, a Democrat, said it "may have played a role' in the president's decision.

"It shows how serious Arizona is taking this issue,' he said of the law.

That law, set to take effect July 29, mandates that when police officers stop anyone for any reason, they also must check their immigration status if there is "reasonable suspicion' the person is not in this country legally. Illegal immigrants also could be charged with violating state trespass laws.

Five separate federal court lawsuits already have been filed challenging various provisions of the law.

Obama himself directed U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to review the law to determine its constitutionality and to sue if it infringes on the exclusive right of the federal government to control immigration policy. The agency says no decision has been made, though some news outlets say they have been told by anonymous sources the Department of Justice will sue.

$399 million for Department of Homeland Security:

- $297 million to hire 1,000 new Border Patrol agents;

- $52.5 million for 160 new ICE agents;

- $37 million for two new unmanned aerial detection systems;

- $6.5 million for 30 new CBP officers;

- $6 million for 20 new CBP canine teams;

- Reprioritize $100 million of existing resources to repair and replace fences.

$201 million for Department of Justice

- add seven ATF Gunrunner Teams, six FBI Hybrid Task Forces, additional DEA agents, equipment, and operational support;

- additional attorneys and immigration judges and additional detention and incarceration resources for criminal aliens;

- funding to support Mexican law enforcement operations with ballistic analysis, DNA analysis, information sharing, technical capabilities, and technical assistance.

-- Source: White House

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