Southern Border Violence Impels Hearings

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., announced Thursday they would hold two hearings to examine the national and homeland security consequences of violence along the US- Mexican border.

The first hearing will be held in Washington, D.C., on March 25. A second hearing will be held in Arizona in April.

“The southern border has always been on our radar screen as an entry point for narcotics and human smugglers, and others who might threaten our homeland security,” Lieberman said. “But the recent escalation of violence along the southern border demands our immediate attention. To deal with the spillover of violence into U.S. territory, we must assess border security programs and plans in place and we must review the readiness of federal, state, and local law enforcement. Ideally, we can eliminate the threats and provide the Mexican government with the support it needs to win this war against the drug cartels and other dangerous actors who threaten our national security.”

Collins said: “Representing a state with extensive cross-border trade and travel, I understand how residents of border communities work, shop, worship, and visit friends and family on both sides of the border, complicating the challenge of border security. The rising level of violence, including drug trafficking, killings, and kidnappings, along the U.S. – Mexican border presents unique difficulties. We have to be able to let our friends in, while keeping our enemies out, enforcing border regulations in a practical manner as we seek to protect the American people. These hearings will explore how to balance these needs.”

McCain said: “With Phoenix ranking second only to Mexico City for the largest number of kidnappings for any city in the world, it is appropriate that the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hold this hearing in Arizona. The violence, crime and drug trafficking in Mexico due to the raging wars among the drug cartels is increasingly coming across the border and threatening the safety of Arizonans and all Americans. I look forward to hosting this hearing in Arizona and working closely with my colleagues, the new Administration, and Mexican President Calderon to put an end to the violence caused by the Mexican drug cartels and restoring law and order.”

The hearings will assess the rising level of violence in northern Mexico and the implications for increased terrorist activity. The hearings will also examine how the U.S. government is working with the Mexican government through initiatives such as Merida, a State Department program of training and foreign assistance for Mexico. And the Committee will look at the Department of Homeland Security’s role, its personnel needs, the effectiveness of its fusion centers to coordinate and share information, and the need to ensure the integrity of the Customs and Border Protection workforce. Other issues that may arise include available resources at the state and local level, the value of deploying the National Guard, SBInet and fencing issues, and the potential for mass migration northward.

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