The Obama administration formally asked Congress on Tuesday for $600 million in emergency funds to hire another 1,000 Border Patrol agents, acquire two drones and enhance security along the Southwest border.
The money would also pay for an additional 160 Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and extra Border Patrol canine teams, according to a senior White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.
In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D- San Francisco), President Obama said his request “responds to urgent and essential needs” and asked that it be considered an emergency.
“These amendments would support efforts to secure the Southwest border and enhance federal border protection, law enforcement and counter-narcotics activities,” Obama wrote.
The president’s request also would provide money for extra FBI task forces, Drug Enforcement Administration agents, prosecutors and immigration judges. The 1,000 extra Border Patrol agents would amount to a 5% staffing increase. The patrol has doubled in size since 2004, to 20,000.
Some of the money would go to help Mexican authorities, such as with ballistic and DNA analysis, the White House official said. Border states are concerned that violence from Mexico’s drug war will spill into the United States.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who met with Obama last month after signing a law making it a state crime to be in the country illegally, has called her state “the gateway to America for drug trafficking, extortion, kidnapping and crime.” She has blamed the federal government for failing to secure the border and has lobbied for stepped-up law enforcement resources and unmanned aircraft.
In March, Arizona rancher Robert Krentz was shot to death on his property, a crime authorities suspect happened in an encounter with a drug smuggling scout.
The president’s proposal includes 1,200 National Guard troops to boost border security, which the administration announced last month. He said then that he would ask for an additional $500 million.
Tuesday’s formal funding request includes another $100 million that would be redirected from a different Homeland Security Department program. That money would be used to repair fences and improve infrastructure along the border, the official said.
Homeland Security Department officials refused to comment about the border initiative Tuesday night.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is scheduled to discuss the new strategy Wednesday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. She is to be joined by National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Assistant Secretary John Morton and Customs and Border Protection Deputy Commissioner David Aguilar.
Ken Dilanian in the Washington bureau contributed to this report.