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    Tuesday, March 24, 2009

    CNN - Obama to beef up Mexico border policy

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    Obama to beef up Mexico border policy

    The Obama administration announced a major increase in security funding and the deployment of U.S.-Mexico border agents Tuesday as part of a comprehensive new plan to beef up resources at the Mexican border.

    The plan commits $700 million to bolster Mexican law enforcement and crime prevention efforts. The funds will provide, among other things, five new helicopters to increase mobility for the Mexican army and air force as well as new surveillance aircraft for the Mexican navy.

    The initiative is designed to help with Mexico's accelerating war against violent drug cartels.

    The plan, developed by the departments of Justice and Homeland Security, calls for doubling the number of border security task force teams as well as moving a significant number of other federal agents, equipment and resources to the border.

    It also involves greater intelligence sharing aimed at cracking down on the flow of money and weapons into Mexico, which helps fuel the drug trade, the officials said.

    "The president is concerned by the increased level of violence, particularly in [the border cities of] Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana, and the impact that it is having on the communities on both sides of the border," the White House press office said in a statement.

    "He believes that the United States must continue to monitor the situation and guard against spillover into the United States. [He] is firmly committed to ensuring our borders are secure, and we are doing all we can to reduce illegal flows in both directions across the border."

    The plan also will fund enhanced communications technology for Mexican prosecutors, law enforcement and immigration officials.

    The funds, meant to assist what administration officials described as an "anti-smuggling effort," will complement ongoing U.S. aid to Mexico under the Merida initiative, a three-year $1.4 billion package aimed at helping Mexico fight the drug cartels with law enforcement training, military equipment and improved intelligence cooperation.

    The administration also is looking to increase intelligence cooperation on the border with Mexican authorities, tighten enforcement of existing U.S. executive orders to go after drug trafficking money and money laundering and step up investigation and prosecution of cartel-related activities in the United States, the officials said.

    To help strengthen the U.S. side of the border, the administration also plans to triple the number of Department of Homeland Security intelligence analysts dedicated to stopping Mexican-related violence. It also will increase the number of immigration officials working in Mexico, double the number of "Violent Criminal Alien" teams on the border, strengthen the presence of border canine units and quadruple the number of border liaison officers working with Mexican law enforcement.

    It also will make an additional $59 million in federal funds available to support state, local and tribal border law enforcement operations.

    At the same time, more agents from the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives will be deployed to the border region. The agents will be given updated equipment and surveillance technology to help track the movement of cash, drugs and weapons.

    "We are discussing more things we can do to address the very real problem of currency and weapons moving into Mexico and at the same time trying to prevent potential border spillover," one senior administration official said.

    The plan is scheduled to be announced at the White House by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg and U.S. Deputy Attorney General David Ogden.

    The announcement comes shortly ahead of a planned visit of three Cabinet secretaries to Mexico before President Obama visits there next month. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits Mexico City this week, to be followed next week by Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder.

    Mexican President Felipe Calderon has been pushing back against U.S. criticism of drug cartel-related violence, which killed about 6,500 people in Mexico last year. In speeches and other recent comments, Calderon has said the United States also must take responsibility because much of the demand for drugs and most of the weapons used by narcotraffickers come from the United States.

    "Mexico believes we are not acknowledging the transitional nature of the problem and the role the U.S. is playing in this," another senior administration official said. "So we are looking at what U.S. law enforcement agencies can do to respond to the Mexican concerns."

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    Certain areas of economy swelling with jobs

    There is life and work in parts of the economy, from health care workers to hard hats.

    A handful of states and big industries have added jobs at a remarkably healthy rate throughout the recession, providing hope for job seekers in a tough economy, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports.

    JOBS FORECAST: Map shows outlook for all 50 states and DC by job sectors

    About 4.4 million people got new jobs in January, and 3 million more openings were available, BLS data show. Those numbers are down sharply from the start of the recession in December 2007 and weren't enough to offset the 4.9 million people who lost or quit their jobs in January. But the jobs data do show some bright spots expanding industries that promise new, stable career opportunities.

    "There are no nurses looking for work," says Mary McNamara of the American Nurses Association. The big problem: finding nursing professors to train new nurses to meet heavy demand.

    Where the jobs are:

    Health care. Every part of the $2.5 trillion industry is growing. Hiring has continued non-stop at hospital, out-patient clinics and physician offices. Nearly every job is in demand: nurses, lab technicians, physician assistants.

    Government. The federal workforce has been growing at a faster rate than local governments' labor pool, but cities, counties and school districts are adding a greater number of jobs because they employ 15 million workers seven times as many as the federal government. Fastest job growth: education, police, firefighting and blue-collar jobs connected to infrastructure such as roads. Slowest growth: administrative work.

    Energy. Oil, gas, coal and electricity production keeps adding jobs, although the pace has slowed since energy prices declined last year. Sewer and water utilities are growing, too.

    "Government and service jobs are the big places to get jobs today," says John Connaughton, director of the University of North Carolina-Charlotte Economic Forecast. Service jobs include health care and education, he says.

    During the recession, the unemployment rate has risen in every state. However, a few states have rates so low that they are near full employment: Wyoming, Nebraska, Utah, South Dakota and North Dakota. "We've got plenty of jobs," says Michael Ziesch, research analyst at Jobs Service North Dakota, the state's employment agency. Firms are hiring in all parts of the state and in nearly every industry.

    The state's online job database has more than 10,000 job vacancies posted. "That's a lot for a small state like North Dakota," Ziesch says. The database is getting heavy use from out-of-state job seekers, he says.

    The aging population makes more nursing jobs a sure thing, says Cheryl Peterson, director of nursing practice at the American Nurses Association. "There will be jobs in 2015. No question."

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