Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced $30 million in federal grants Tuesday to prevent drug-fueled violence from spilling into the United States from Mexico.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced $30 million in federal grants Tuesday to prevent drug-fueled violence from spilling into the United States from Mexico, heralding it as the latest of several moves in recent months to bolster border enforcement.
Law enforcement agencies in Texas will get nearly $13 million, California and Arizona will get more than $7 million each and New Mexico will receive nearly $3 million under the federal Operation Stonegarden program.
Speaking at a conference in El Paso, Texas, Napolitano reiterated a mantra of the Obama administration that the U.S. shares responsibility with Mexico to stop illegal drugs from moving north and weapons from flowing south of the border to Mexican cartels. She called Mexican President Felipe Calderon "a strong partner."
"We have a unique opportunity with Mexico to really break up these cartels, and shame on us if we don't take full advantage of that opportunity and go through that window together," she said.
Drug violence has killed more than 11,000 people in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006, and Napolitano said preventing that carnage from spreading to the United States was among the administration's highest priorities. She said her department has added agents, investigators and technology to address the threat.
Some border city mayors shared Napolitano's assessment that violence has stayed south of the border. San Diego's Jerry Sanders told Napolitano that crime has fallen to historic lows in the nation's eighth-largest city. Bob Walkup said violent and property crimes have dropped in Tucson, Ariz.
But Richard Cortez, mayor of McAllen, Texas, said violence is up sharply in small, rural areas. Napolitano promised to follow up with him to try to determine why.
"What's been reported to me is that it's been dope running (in Texas) by people in crime business," Cortez said in a phone interview. He declined to say exactly where but said McAllen has been spared.
Napolitano broke little new ground in what her office billed as a major speech on border enforcement. She highlighted previously announced measures — most recently, enhanced oversight at the department's widely criticized immigration detention centers. She expressed hope for an overhaul of immigration laws, while vowing to continue enforcing existing laws.
She said the administration is working to address a backlog in citizenship applications. "Quite frankly, there's been a lot of red tape involved," she said.
The $30 million for Operation Stonegarden is in addition to $60 million for the program announced in June, mostly for the border region. It will pay for overtime, travel and other expenses to bolster state and local law enforcement on the Mexican border.