February 27, 2009

Udall to President: We Must Stop Border Violence

In Letter to President, Senator Udall Requests Support for Programs to End Violence on U.S.?Mexico

WASHINGTON-U.S. Senator Tom Udall, D-N.M., today sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to include in his budget "the highest levels of funding possible" to reduce violence along the U.S.-Mexico border. Udall noted that 5,300 people were killed in Mexico last year from drug-related violence. About 1,500 of those murders occurred in Ciudad Juarez, directly across the border from El Paso, Texas and the New Mexico border.

 

"To ensure that our nation's communities are safe from this ongoing violence," wrote Udall, "we must work to adequately fund programs aimed at curbing this horrible and tragic situation."

 

Just this week, New Mexico State University, which is located only 40 miles from the Mexican border in Las Cruces, N.M., with another branch a mere miles away from Ciudad Juarez, warned students against traveling to Mexico over Spring Break due to escalating violence.

 

The State Department also issued an alert on Feb. 20 warming anyone considering travel to Mexico to properly educate themselves about areas they might be visiting for the same reason.

 

In his letter, Udall specifically mentioned three programs that he argued can reduce the violence and make Americans in border communities safer. The programs include:

 

· The Southwest Border Initiative, an Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms program to reduce the flow of firearms to criminal organizations and reduce gun-related crime on both sides of the border;

· The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Program, which provides coordination and equipment for law enforcement agencies targeting drug trafficking; and

· The National Guard Drug Interdiction and Counterdrug Programs, which puts the Guard to work fighting drug crimes.

 

"With the right funding, these programs can reduce drug trafficking, curb violence and save lives," said Udall. "I look forward to working with President Obama to ensure our border patrol agents, our ATF agents along the border, and our National Guard counterdrug units have the resources they need to do their job."

 

Below is the full text of Udall's letter.

 

February 27, 2009

 

 

The Honorable Barack Obama

President

United States of America

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Washington, D.C. 20001

 

Dear Mr. President:

 

I am writing today to raise the issue of the dramatically escalating violence along the United States-Mexico border, which is encroaching on our nation's soil and threatens my state of New Mexico. I also respectfully request as you prepare to submit your budget proposal for fiscal year 2010, you take into account the escalating drug-related violence, and comprehensively fund efforts to stem the flow of violence along the border region.

 

Last year, more than 5,300 people were killed in Mexico because of drug-related violence - more than double the amount from the previous year. About 1,500 of those murders occurred in Ciudad Juarez, directly across the border from El Paso, Texas. Since taking office, Mexico's President, Felipe Calderón, has made combating drug violence one of his top priorities and has sent thousands of soldiers and police to affected areas across the country. Unfortunately, these law-enforcement officials are targeted by drug traffickers, resulting in the death of more than 500 officers and soldiers since President Calderón's efforts began.

 

While violence has been aimed primarily at members of drug-trafficking organizations, criminal justice officials, and journalists, foreign visitors and residents, including U.S. citizens, have been counted among the victims. Additionally, there are serious concerns, and an increasing number of reports that violence related to the drug war is spreading across the border.

 

To ensure that our nation's communities are safe from this ongoing violence, we must work to adequately fund programs aimed at curbing this horrible and tragic situation. These programs address the problem by curbing access of firearms to drug-smuggling cartels and by combating their drug trafficking into the United States. Amongst those programs are:

 

Southwest Border Initiative - Through the Southwest Border Initiative, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) deployed resources along the Southwest Border work to suppress the flow of firearms to criminal organizations in Mexico and combat firearm-related violence that is occurring on both sides of the border. Through its primary initiative, Project Gunrunner, ATF is working with law enforcement partners to deny illegal firearms to criminal organizations. ATF has already seized thousands of these weapons. According to ATF, 90 percent of the weapons seized in Mexico are from sources within the United States. These weapons are used by drug cartels to control their drug shipment routes, funnel illegal drugs into the United States, and continue their violent actions along the border. Mexico has strict rules on gun possession, so it is extremely important that we do all we can to stop the flow of guns into Mexico.

 

High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) - The HIDTA program works to coordinate efforts between the Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to combat drug trafficking. This vital program provides law enforcement with equipment, technology, and other resources to curb trafficking and its harmful consequences.

 

National Guard Drug Interdiction and Counterdrug Programs - The National Guard and its personnel currently provide critically important counterdrug duties along the border, including camera surveillance of high traffic border areas, mobile vehicle inspection and dismantlement, and at-risk school counterdrug education programs. Since the conclusion of Operation Jump Start, this funding is even more important in the efforts to combat drug trafficking along our southern border.

 

These programs are among the many aimed at ensuring the security and safety of our border areas. I request that you provide the highest levels of funding possible in your FY10 budget for these programs. Securing our border region is of great importance, and the increasing violence makes it only more so.

 

Thank you for your attention to my request, and I look forward to working with you on this vitally important national security issue.

 

 

 

Sincerely,

 

 

Tom Udall

United States Senator