- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 17, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Obama administration plans to send reinforcements to the Southwest border to help contain the rampant violence of the Mexican drug cartel wars.

Thirty-seven agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are being deployed to the region. An official familiar with the plan said the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency is considering reassignment of at least 90 officers to the border.

The official requested anonymity because the plan has not yet been announced.

The deployments are part of President Barack Obama’s first moves to boost federal security sources on the U.S. side of the border.

The additional immigration agents would double the size of an ongoing ICE task force that has been working with other federal agencies to fight the criminal organizations contributing to the border violence.

The ATF agents will be added to anti-gunrunning teams in McAllen, Texas, El Centro, Calif., and Las Cruces, N.M., as well as to U.S. consulates in Juarez and Tijuana. Some of the reinforcement costs will be covered with economic recovery money recently approved by Congress.

The U.S.-Mexico border has been a different problem for Obama than it was for his predecessor, George W. Bush. While Bush sent National Guard troops to stem the flow of illegal immigrants, Obama’s first moves are designed more to keep violence from spilling across the border.

Katherine Cesinger, a spokeswoman for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, said the governor’s office has “not received official word from Washington but we are hopeful we’ll get the help we need from Washington to secure the border.”

Mexican officials say the violence spawned by warring drug cartels killed 6,290 people last year and more than 1,000 so far this year, mostly south of the border.

Over the weekend hundreds of Mexican army troops arrived in Juarez, a border city across the Rio Grande River from El Paso, Texas. Police in Juarez have been swamped by drug violence. The move brought the total number of soldiers patrolling the city to around 7,000.

Warring drug cartels are blamed for more than 560 kidnappings in Phoenix in 2007 and the first half of 2008, as well as killings in Atlanta, Birmingham, Ala., and Vancouver, British Columbia.

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