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9/22/2017 12:11:25 AM
Posted: 8/24/2005 3:34:11 PM EDT
I know, about damn time.

A week after two Southwestern states declared emergencies along their borders, the Homeland Security Department has announced new initiatives to improve immigration enforcement and target the human smuggling trade.

New Mexico declared a state of emergency along its border Aug. 12, followed by Arizona three days later. The governors of the states -- both Democrats -- said the federal government has failed in its responsibility to secure the U.S. border with Mexico, and that counties in their states are experiencing a surge in illegal immigration, human smuggling and crime.

"I'm taking these serious steps because of the urgency of the situation and, unfortunately, because of the total inaction and lack of resources from the federal government and Congress," New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said in declaring his emergency. "We will continue to work with the federal government in an attempt to get their assistance, but something had to be done immediately."

Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano sent Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff a letter proposing several efforts to address the problems before she declared a state of emergency. On Monday, Chertoff responded in writing to Napolitano and agreed to initiatives that will increase cooperation between state and local law enforcement, the Border Patrol and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau.

Under the initiatives, the Arizona Department of Public Safety will provide ICE with 200 additional detention beds, which will enable the agency to remove 1,200 additional illegal immigrants each year. ICE currently has 2,000 beds in Arizona.

ICE also will allow four DPS investigators to serve on its human trafficking task forces in Phoenix. "While in the past, the state has demurred on putting such investigators on ICE task forces dealing with human smuggling, this action will provide for an integrated approach to developing federal and state investigations and a rapid combined response," Chertoff wrote.

DHS also invited DPS to help the Border Patrol at checkpoints and with roving patrols. DPS will be allowed to have full-time liaisons at the ICE office in Phoenix and the Border Patrol office in Tucson. "This will ensure consistent, daily coordination and communication between the state and DHS at both the component and departmental level," Chertoff said.

DPS also will help transport illegal aliens in order to free up Border Patrol agents.

DHS officials told Government Executive that, within the next two months, 305 more Border Patrol agents will be added to the El Paso sector, which covers all of New Mexico, and 173 more agents will be added to the Yuma sector, which covers the Arizona west desert corridor. They said the additional agents had been scheduled to go to the sectors before the states of emergency were declared.

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