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Obama signs $600 million border security bill

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Obama signs $600 million border security bill

Southwest Border Security Bill will add agents, equipment & judges

  • A Border Patrol checkpoint near Whetstone, Ariz., July 13.
    ThreadedThoughts/FlickrA Border Patrol checkpoint near Whetstone, Ariz., July 13.

President Barack Obama signed a $600 million border bill Friday morning.

The product of a merry-go-round process between the House and Senate, the Southwest Border Security Bill will put more agents and equipment on the border with Mexico.

The funds will allow the hiring of 1,000 new Border Patrol agents, as well as more Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. New communications gear and deployments of surveillance drones are also included in the bill.

Also funded will be Border Patrol forward operating bases, Drug Enforcement agents, teams to halt cross-border gunrunning, and at least 30 additional prosecutors and immigration judges.

"I consider these funds a down payment on long-overdue efforts to secure our border," Rep. Gabrielle Giffords said in a news release.

"The resources made available through this legislation will build upon our successful efforts to protect communities along the Southwest border and across the country. And this new law will also strengthen our partnership with Mexico in targeting the gangs and criminal organizations that operate on both sides of our shared border," Obama said.

The funding will "enhance technology at the border, share information and support with state, local and tribal law enforcement, and increase (federal) presence and law enforcement activities at the border," the White House said in a statement.

The Border Patrol has doubled in size, to 20,000 agents, in the past six years.

"The day this bill is signed into law should be a cause for celebration in Arizona and other border states," Giffords said on Wednesday, calling on the Senate to send the bill to the president's desk.

"This is not the time to rest on our laurels," she said. "Real border security won’t be achieved overnight. It requires constant vigilance."

The House approved $701 million for border security funding weeks ago, but the Senate stripped the funding from a war spending bill, then reduced the amount and added a revenue source. Each change required the bill to return to the House.

After the House passed the final version of the bill without dissent on Tuesday, the Senate convened an unusual special session Thursday to send the bill to Obama's desk.

Since the Senate was in recess for its August vacation, only two senators were required to pass the bill. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) approved the legislation.

Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl accused the Democrats of "needless political maneuvering" on Thursday. The pair applauded the bill's passage, but said the House Democrats "chose to play politics and risk delaying funding that is desperately needed in Arizona and other border states."

The two Arizona Republicans voted against the $701 million border package included in a July war spending bill, citing concerns with how the bill would be paid for.

"Strengthening border security is one of the key pillars of bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform; yet enforcement will not solve our immigration problems alone," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a news release. "We must build on today's progress, using it as a step towards enactment of bipartisan, comprehensive reform."

"In just the Tucson Sector of the Border Patrol, agents are arresting an average of 650 illegal immigrants per day," Giffords said Friday. "And in a recent nine-month period, agents in that same sector seized almost 800,000 pounds of drugs worth more than $638 million. We have a long way to go before we can say our border is secure."

The border bill will be funded by raising fees on H-1B visas, used by companies to hire skilled foreigners as temporary workers. The higher fees - up to $2,750 per worker - will be imposed on foreign companies who have more than 50 percent of their employees on H-1B visas. U.S. technology companies will not be affected by the higher fees, and still be charged the old $320 rate.

At McCain and Kyl's suggestion, $100 million in funding will come from the shutdown of the SBInet "virtual fence" program, which was frozen in March after years of cost overruns and technical glitches.

Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, the Democratic candidate for governor, hailed the bill's signing, but called for more pressure to be put on Mexican drug cartels.

"Our border cannot be made secure as long as the cartels are so deeply entrenched and well-funded," Goddard said in a news release. "As long as they remain powerful, rampant trafficking of drugs, humans, guns and money across our border will persist."

A recent report by the Government Accountability Office said federal authorities should adopt adopt investigative techniques developed by Goddard's office to stem the flow of wire transfers of drug money to the cartels.

Where the money goes

  • $176 million for 1,000 new Border Patrol agents
  • $50 million for 250 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel
  • $39 million for Customs and Border Protection to maintain personnel levels
  • $37 million for Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents
  • $34 million for Drug Enforcement Administration agents
  • $32 million to deploy unmanned aerial vehicle surveillance drones
  • $30 million for border interdiction by ICE
  • $29 million for 250 new Customs and Border Protection officers at ports of entry
  • $24 million for FBI agents along the border
  • $21 million Interagency Crime and Drug Law enforcement along the border
  • $20 million for the federal prison system to detain immigrant criminals
  • $14 million for communication equipment
  • $13 million for U.S. attorneys and other legal expenses
  • $10 million for federal judiciary resources
  • $10 million for investigators to stop corruption in the Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection
  • $8 million for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center
  • $8 million for U.S marshals
  • $7 million for border processing of apprehended drug dealers and human traffickers
  • $6 million to deploy forward operating bases
  • $2.1 million for expediting administrative review and appeals of immigration cases

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