New Congressional Funding to Enhance Department of Justice Southwest Border Strategy
WASHINGTON – Today’s passage by Congress of the Border Security Appropriations Bill provides $196 million for the Department of Justice to surge federal law enforcement efforts in high crime areas in the Southwest Border region, announced Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary G. Grindler.
“I commend Congress for passing the Border Security Appropriations Bill to add important resources to bolster security on our Southwest Border,” said Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary G. Grindler. “These assets are critical to bringing additional capabilities to crack down on transnational criminal organizations and reduce the illicit trafficking of people, drugs, currency and weapons.
“This bill will help strengthen the Department of Justice’s historic security efforts on the Southwest Border. Over the past 18 months, this Administration and this Department have dedicated unprecedented personnel, technology, and resources to the border, with unprecedented results, and we will continue to focus our efforts on disrupting criminal organizations and the networks they exploit,” said Acting Deputy Attorney General Grindler.
Acting Deputy Attorney General Grindler was joined in the announcement by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division; Deputy Director Kenneth Melson of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart; Assistant Director Kevin Perkins of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division and U.S. Marshals Service Director John Clark.
Specifically, the funding will allow for more than 400 new positions and the temporary deployment of up to 220 personnel along the border as part of the Justice Department’s broader Southwest Border Strategy, including:
· ATF Project Gunrunner Teams - Establishment of seven ATF Project Gunrunner teams comprised of special agents and industry operations investigators to target firearms trafficking along the Southwest Border;
· Target Drug Enforcement Efforts at the Cartels - Enhancing and increasing intelligence operations against drug cartels as well as adding 50 new positions in Southwest Border offices;
· FBI Hybrid Squads - Creation of five additional Hybrid Squads on the Southwest Border dedicated to combating the violent crime threat along the border and expanding intelligence collection efforts;
· Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) - Increased funding for the Southwest Border region including its seven OCDETF Strike Forces in the area to support investigations and prosecutions of high level Mexican drug cartels;
· U.S. Attorneys - Deployment of more than 30 prosecutors in targeted locations to provide additional prosecutorial resources dedicated to combating Southwest Border firearm and drug trafficking, and bulk cash smuggling;
· Criminal Division - Creation of 26 positions to review wiretap requests, along with mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) and extradition requests as well as to provide additional support for the investigation and prosecution of transnational gangs, firearms and drug traffickers, and money launderers operating along the Southwest Border;
· USMS International Investigations - Deployment of more than 20 Deputy U.S. Marshals to support its international investigations, including establish offices in Mexico to address cross-border investigations and enhance USMS presence at El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) to facilitate more intelligence-driving investigations;
· Immigration Litigation - Increased funding for Immigration Judge Teams to expedite the adjudication of removal proceedings involving criminal aliens;
· Prisons and Detention Increased funding for contract beds and USMS personnel to accommodate prisoner levels; and
· Training for Mexican law enforcement - Additional funding to support Mexican law enforcement operations with ballistic analysis, DNA analysis, information sharing, technical capabilities and assistance.
The Southwest Border Strategy, led by the Deputy Attorney General, uses federal prosecutor-led task forces that bring together all law enforcement components to identify, disrupt and dismantle the Mexican drug cartels through investigation, prosecution and extradition of their key leaders and facilitators, and seizure and forfeiture of their assets. The Department of Justice is increasing its focus on investigations and prosecutions of the southbound smuggling of guns and cash that fuel the violence and corruption and attacking the cartels in Mexico itself, in partnership with the Procuraduría General de la República (PGR) and the Secretariat of Public Security (SSP).
The latest resources and funding announced by the United States build on the framework of expertise and experience that have been announced during the last year, as well as the successes these resources and funding have achieved, as part of the Obama administration’s support of the fight against the cartels.
As the largest law enforcement presence in Mexico with offices throughout, and a decades-long history of working with the Mexican government, the DEA has a strategic vantage point from which to assess the drug trafficking situation in Mexico, the related violence, its causes and its historical context. Currently, DEA has 29 percent of its domestic agent positions allocated to its Southwest border field divisions. Project Deliverance, announced in June 2010, led to the arrest of more than 2,200 individuals on narcotics-related charges in the United States and the seizure of more than 74.1 tons of illegal drugs as part of a 22-month multi-agency law enforcement investigation.
Through ATF’s Project Gunrunner, agents gather intelligence from federal firearms licensee records, ballistics and other laboratory analysis and trace data as well as use traditional methods of intelligence gathering to deny the “tools of the trade” to the firearms trafficking infrastructure of criminal organizations operating in Mexico and throughout the United States. As a result of Project Gunrunner, ATF seized 2,589 firearms and 265,500 rounds of ammunition destined for the Southwest Border in FY 2009.
ATF has significantly expanded its efforts by deploying GRIT teams to target areas along the border. As a result of the first GRIT team deployment to Houston, agents researched and completed more than 1,000 investigative leads resulting in the initiation of more than 275 firearms cases and seizure of more than 440 illegal firearms. GRIT teams also completed more than 1,100 federal firearms licensee (FFL) inspections.
Recovery Act funding provided Project Gunrunner with $10 million to hire special agents, industry operations investigators and others to staff new offices in McAllen, Texas; El Centro, Calif.; and Las Cruces, N.M. (including a satellite office in Roswell, N.M.,) to target the gun traffickers that enable weapons to make their way to violent criminals.
ATF has also expanded its successful eTrace initiative, which allows law enforcement agencies to identify firearms trafficking trends of drug trafficking organizations and other criminal organizations funneling guns into Mexico from the United States, as well as to develop investigative leads in order to stop firearms traffickers and straw purchasers (people who knowingly purchase guns for prohibited persons) before they cross the border.
In addition to the five new Hybrid Squads, the FBI is continuing to operate its National Border Corruption Task Force, with representatives from the FBI, Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, U.S. Customs and Border Protection - Internal Affairs and TSA to guide and oversee border corruption programs across the country.
USMS has stepped-up its efforts along the Southwest border, deploying 94 additional Deputy U.S. Marshals and sending four additional deputies to Mexico City to assist the Marshals Service Mexico City Foreign Field Office in FY09. Twenty-five new Criminal Investigators-Asset Forfeiture Specialists have been placed in USMS asset forfeiture units in the field. The new positions are unique in that they are solely dedicated to the USMS Asset Forfeiture Division and support U.S. Attorneys Offices and investigative agencies in investigations of cartels and other large-scale investigations.
Extraditions from Mexico reached an all-time high in 2009, with 107 individuals extradited from Mexico to the United States to stand trial for alleged crimes committed in the United States. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs has already achieved the extradition of 54 fugitives from Mexico in 2010, 22 of whom have been for drug trafficking offenses. This included the extradition from Mexico of Mario Ernesto Villanueva Madrid, the former governor of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo.
In addition to increased resources and funding, the Department of Justice has continued to support Mexican law enforcement through training initiatives. The Criminal Division’s Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development Assistance and Training (OPDAT) and others are providing real time hands-on training through seminars for investigators and prosecutors in Mexico on the investigation and prosecution of complex cases, as Mexico transitions to an adversarial system. The training of 5,462 Mexican prosecutors and investigators at the state and federal level and in the executive and judicial branches has already occurred, and the department is on target to reach 9,261 trained by the end of 2010.
In addition, the OCDETF program has increased its analyst personnel along the Southwest Border and the Office of Justice Programs invested $30 million in stimulus funding to assist with state and local law enforcement to combat narcotics activity coming through the southern border and in high intensity drug trafficking areas.