SAN DIEGO (AP) - The Obama administration plans to spend more
than $400 million to upgrade ports of entry and surveillance
technologies to help thwart drugs and arms smuggling along the
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Wednesday that
the projects will help keep violence from spilling across the
"Working together at all levels, we take them on and we take
them out. That is our goal," Napolitano told reporters after an
aerial tour of the border area near San Diego.
From the air, Napolitano could see smugglers' paths worn into
the rugged terrain of the Otay Mountains that hug the border.
In her first visit to the U.S.-Mexico border since taking office
two months ago, Napolitano toured a customs and border protection
facility at Otay Mesa, Calif.
The spending outlined by Napolitano is part of President Barack
Obama's economic stimulus package approved by Congress.
Included in the border spending is $269 million to upgrade ports
of entry, including San Diego's Otay Mesa - a busy crossing for
trucks - Antelope Wells, N.M., and Nogales, Ariz.
The plan calls for $42 million for high-tech inspection
equipment and $50 million for a high-tech surveillance systems
along Arizona's border with Mexico.
Napolitano said additional cameras would be mounted at the Otay
Mesa facility to record vehicle traffic heading into Mexico, a
tactic expected to help cut into the smuggling of guns from the
United States into Mexico.
The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
reports that up to 95 percent of guns seized at scenes of drug
violence in Mexico can be traced to U.S. commercial sources. These
weapons are increasingly higher-powered, including .50 caliber
rifles and armor-piercing ammunition.
To help curb southbound arms trafficking, the Mexican government
plans to begin checking more vehicles crossing from the U.S. At
present, Mexico checks about 10 percent of the 230,000 vehicles
that cross the border each day, according to the federal Attorney
By weighing vehicles for unusual heaviness and tracking license
plate numbers, the two government hope to catch more hidden
The United States has long weighed and checked the license
plates of northbound vehicles, but not if they are southbound.
Napolitano said that practice is changing with the installation of
surveillance cameras at Otay Mesa and other border crossings.
The Obama administration announced last week that nearly 500
more federal agents are being deployed to the border, along with
X-ray machines and drug-sniffing dogs, both to stop the spillover
of Mexico's drug violence and curb gun smuggling.
Drugs and arms smuggling and drug cartel violence are the topics
of a meeting in Cuernavaca, Mexico, on Thursday. Attending are
Napolitano and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Mexico's
Attorney General Eduardo Medina-Mora and Interior Secretary
Meanwhile, in Washington the Senate approved legislation to
authorize an additional $550 million over the next five years for
federal agents, investigators, and other resources to help fight
Mexican drug cartels blamed for a wave of violence along the
Lawmakers said the money would help stem the flow of drugs
northward over the Mexican border and the flow of guns and money
southward into Mexico.
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