President Barack Obama signed a $600 million border security bill Friday designed to beef up armed patrols and increase funding for unmanned drones hunting for illegal immigrants crossing the border between Mexico and the U.S.
Obama had pushed for the measure, which he hopes will blunt the concerns of critics who are angry about rampant illegal border crossings and rising drug-related crime encroaching into Arizona and Texas.
"The resources made available through this legislation will build upon our successful efforts to protect communities along the Southwest border and across the country," Obama said in a statement. "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."
Signing Follows Senate Passage
The bill, which passed the Senate by a voice vote of two Senators, Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), will add 1,500 new border patrol agents and customs officials. It will also add two new unmanned drones to police the border.
The Senate is technically in the middle of its summer recess, and Republicans did not return to address the measure, but they agreed to the bill's passage by voice vote. Sen. Cardin presided over the vote, Schumer voted yes, and without objection, the bill passed.
The measure aims to give the administration the resources it needs to "combat drug smugglers, gun runners, human traffickers, money launderers and other organized criminals that seek to do harm" along the border, Schumer said in comments cited by Reuters. Some Republicans, including Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), say the bill doesn't go far enough in securing the border.
Cracking Down on "Transnational Criminal Organizations"
The bill's passage comes just over one month after the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Arizona aiming to block the state's controversial new immigration law, which says local law-enforcement authorities can detain people suspected of being in the country illegally.
Two weeks ago, a federal judge blocked parts of the Arizona law, ruling that it unconstitutionally preempted the federal government's authority to enforce the nation's immigrations laws.
The Obama administration supported the border security bill, which Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said last week is "critical to bringing additional capabilities to crack down on transnational criminal organizations and reduce the illicit trafficking of people, drugs, currency and weapons."
There are an estimated 10 million to 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S.
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