Stimulus bill targets illegal gun running
The $787 billion stimulus bill Democrats pushed through also provides money to build and renovate border ports of entry and for technology at the Southwest border. But it does not require contractors who receive stimulus money to participate in a program designed to make sure U.S. employees are working legally.
The money allotted to the ATF is designated for salaries and expenses of Project Gunrunner, which targets gun trafficking networks in the U.S. An estimated 90 percent of weapons seized in Mexico are from sources within the U.S., according to the ATF. Many of the weapons are found in drug-related crimes.
Mexico wants the U.S. to step up efforts aimed at curbing arms and weapons trafficking into Mexico to help it fight drug cartels that have been warring over diminishing drug supply routes.
"This additional funding hopefully will allow the ATF to hire new agents, but the principal benefit is in securing the border. Violence in Mexico is creeping across the border, there have been a few incidents and that certainly makes commerce and trade more difficult," said Jude McCartin, a spokeswoman for Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M.
Bingaman has sponsored measures to increase funding for ATF to fight gun trafficking. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, D-Texas, has sponsored similar legislation in the House.
The ATF funds are part of $40 million in the bill for competitive grants to local law enforcement along the southern border and in high intensity drug trafficking areas to fight drug-related crime.
Other border related spending in the bill includes:
_ $100 million for expedited development and deployment of border security technology along the southern border. To get the money, the Homeland Security Department must provide congressional committees with a spending plan 45 days after the stimulus bill becomes law.
_ $420 million for planning, designing, building and renovating of federally-owned land border ports of entry. A spending plan also is required in 45 days.
_ $80 million for radios and equipment to Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, once spending plans are provided.
Lawmakers removed a measure that would have required contractors receiving stimulus money to participate in E-Verify, a program using the Social Security Administration database to root out people working illegally in the U.S.
However, money for small business loans cannot be provided to businesses whose owners are not legally in the country or firms with a pattern of hiring illegal immigrant workers.
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