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August 12, 2010

Obama Signs $600 Million Border Security Bill

U.S. President Barack Obama has signed a $600 million border security bill into law.  The law will send more law enforcement agents and equipment to the U.S./Mexico border.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says the large infusion of resources at the border will help make the United States more secure.

"The legislation adds permanent resources that will continue to bolster security along the Southwest border, supporting our efforts to crack down on transnational criminal organizations and reduce the trafficking of people, drugs, currency and weapons," she said.

Secretary Napolitano briefed reporters at the White House Friday on the new law.  She said the additional money will pay for 1,000 more border patrol agents, more customs officers, more intelligence analysts to fight drug smuggling and violence, new communications equipment, and two unmanned surveillance planes to operate along the border.

Napolitano said that even before Friday's bill signing, the Obama administration had devoted more resources to the U.S./Mexico border than at any other point in American history.

"These efforts are making a difference, and they are the reason why everything that is supposed to be going up is going up, and everything that is supposed to be going down is going down," Napolitano said.

She said those efforts have reduced illegal border crossings and led to more removals of illegal immigrants who have committed crimes.

Immigration is one of the main issues in many of this year's elections for the U.S. Congress and state governors.

The Southwestern state of Arizona enacted a controversial law in April to require police to check a person's immigration status while enforcing other laws, and to require immigrants to carry their immigration documents at all times.  A judge has put those provisions on hold.

Supporters of the Arizona law say it is needed because the federal government has not done its job in fighting illegal immigration and crime related to it.

The bill signed by the president on Friday passed both houses of Congress this week, in an unusual August session.

Secretary Napolitano thanked lawmakers from both parties for supporting the effort.

"…and demonstrates that the border is not and should not be a political issue.  It is a matter of national security, in which we all, both parties, have a stake," she added.

The homeland security chief joined with other administration officials in calling for comprehensive reform of national immigration policy.