The Obama administration says it is increasing the number of agents that operate along the Mexican border in an effort to combat an explosion of violence tied to powerful drug cartels. At the White House, U.S. officials outlined plans to work with Mexican authorities to enforce law and order in the border area.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says the United States has two objectives in boosting security along the border with Mexico. The first is to help the Mexican government crack down on the powerful drug cartels that operate along the border. The other is to prevent drug related violence from spreading into the United States.
"One of the changes in the threat environment has been what is going on in Mexico," Napolitano said. "So we need to make changes in order to deal with that particular threat. And again, it is two-fold: one is, we want to help our colleagues in Mexico, but it does have an impact on safety and security in the United States."
As part of the new strategy, Napolitano says the United States will double the number of border security teams, and will quadruple the number of border liaison officers who work with Mexican officials.
The new policy announcement comes a day before Secretary of State Hillary Clinton travels to Mexico to discuss efforts to confront drug-related violence, which has killed more than 1,000 people in Mexico this year. Most of the violence is attributed to turf battles between drug cartels.
Much of the new plan focuses on boosting intelligence to investigate and prosecute key cartel members, and to confiscate their money.
Deputy Attorney General David Ogden says this is a proven strategy for dismantling criminal organizations.
"As we've found with other large criminal groups, if you take their money and lock up their leaders you can loosen their grip on the vast organizations used to carry out their criminal activities," Ogden said.
Ogden says the Justice Department will also investigate and prosecute those who smuggle guns and cash into Mexico.
Secretary Napolitano, a former governor and attorney general in the southwestern border state of Arizona, says prosecuting drug criminals is a more effective strategy than building border walls.
"If you've ever worked on these cartel cases as I have as a prosecutor, you know a wall is not the best way to spend our dollars to prevent these drugs from coming into the United States and being able to apprehend and prosecute the smugglers themselves," Napolitano said.
The United States is investing $700 million this year to improve Mexico's law enforcement capabilities as part of the Merida Initiative, created during the George W. Bush administration.
Napolitano says she anticipates that the Obama administration will announce further efforts to secure the border as the situation develops.
She said her department is still considering whether to deploy National Guard troops to the border, after Texas Governor Rick Perry requested additional forces. She said she will discuss the plan with the Texas governor when they meet this week.