WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of Western and Southwestern senators have come together to try to get critical funding restored in the federal budget for prosecuting drug traffickers and other lawbreakers along the Southwest border.
The senators representing California, Texas and New Mexico want the Senate Appropriations Committee to restore $31 million for the Southwest Border Prosecution Initiative, which the Obama administration did not fund in the 2011 budget.
The senators are California Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, Texas Republicans John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, and New Mexico Democrats Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall.
"The administration's decision not to renew vital SWBPI border funding puts our local law enforcement officials at a serious disadvantage in the war on drugs," said Cornyn.
In a letter to Sens. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and Richard Shelby, R-Ala., the chair and ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee's subcommittee for Justice Department funding, the six senators asked that the $31 million be included in the 2011 appropriations bill that funds the agency.
"The SWBPI program reimburses state, county, parish, tribal, and municipal governments for costs associated with the prosecution and pre-trial detention of federally-initiated criminal cases declined by local offices of the United States Attorneys," they wrote. "This important funding provides local law enforcement agencies with the means to prosecute drug trafficking and violent crime cases that have been initiated federally but referred to local jurisdictions along the Southwest border."
The senators from the remaining border state, Arizona — Republicans John McCain and Jon Kyl — did not sign the letter but Monday plan to unveil a 10-point plan to secure the border. According to McCain spokesperson Brooke Buchanan, McCain did not sign the letter because the funding would be added as an earmark, a targeted funding practice that he opposes "under any circumstance."
Last month, three individuals with ties to the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez, on the border across from El Paso, were gunned down in broad daylight, apparently by Mexican drug gangs.
Two of the victims were U.S. citizens, a consular employee and her husband; their baby was in the back seat. The third person killed was the husband of a Mexican employee of the consulate.
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