Obama signs $600M border security bill

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1,000 Border Patrol agents will be deployed at hotspots including NM

By Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama on Friday signed into law a $600 million border security that will put more agents and equipment along the Mexican border.

Obama signed the bill in the Oval Office alongside Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

The measure will fund the hiring of 1,000 new Border Patrol agents to be deployed at critical areas along the border, as well as more Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

It also provides for new communications equipment and greater use of unmanned surveillance drones.

Some Republicans, including Arizona Sen. John McCain, say that while the legislation is a start, the bill falls short by not dramatically increasing the number of customs inspectors along the border and not funding a program that charges illegal immigrants with a low-level crime.

Arizona has been at the epicenter of the border security debate since it passed a law directing law enforcement officers to be more aggressive in seeking out illegal immigrants.

Although a federal  judge has since struck down some of the law’s major provisions, it remains a rallying cry for those who say Washington has lost control of the border.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the chief sponsor, said the measure would provide Obama and Napolitano “with the boots on the ground and the resources necessary to combat the crime and violence.”

Obama said the bill would help protect communities along the Southwest border and across the country.

“And this new law will also strengthen our partnership with Mexico in targeting the gangs and criminal organizations that operate on both sides of our shared border,” Obama  said in a statement.

Almost one-third of the money goes to the Justice Department to help agencies such as the FBI, the DEA and the ATF deal with drug dealers and human traffickers.

The legislation wil be paid for by raising fees on foreign-based personnel companies that utilize U.S. visa programs, including the popular H-1B program, to bring their skilled workers to the United States.

India says that the higher fees would discriminate against its companies and workers.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement director John Morton, who was on a visit to Phoenix, said that his agency removed a record number of illegal immigrants from the country in the fiscal year ending last September.

According to ICE numbers, some 387,000 illegal immigrants were removed, of whom 35 percent were convicted criminals.

Through the beginning of August this year, about half the 294,000 who have been deported were criminals, also a record level, ICE said.