SAN ANTONIO - Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano, Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina-Mora, Mexican National Public Security System Executive Secretary Jorge Tello Peón, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Assistant Secretary John Morton and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Acting Director Kenneth E. Melson today signed a Letter of Intent to develop a coordinated and intelligence-driven response to the threat of cross border smuggling and trafficking of weapons and ammunition.
"Enforcing our laws at the border requires close collaboration with our international and domestic allies to ensure our mutual security," said Secretary Napolitano. "This arrangement underlines our continued commitment to working with Mexico to stop violence and deter criminal activity that threatens safety on both sides of the border."
"The Letter of Intent illustrates our unconditional commitment to improve public safety in the United States and Mexico, and strengthens our determination to investigate and share intelligence to combat international firearms trafficking and violent crime," said Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden. "Law enforcement agencies in both nations recognize the importance of tracing every crime gun recovered on the Southwest border to help determine trafficking patterns and potential traffickers of illicit firearms."
The arrangement signed today, supported by President Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderón, will leverage the combined investigative capabilities of ICE, ATF and the Attorney General of Mexico to combat violence and criminal activity along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The Letter of Intent recommends a joint strategic implementation plan to develop cooperative protocols to govern weapons and ammunition trafficking investigations in the United States and Mexico and improve information sharing between the two countries to better identify smuggling and trafficking trends and support bilateral investigation efforts.
Secretary Napolitano also publicly announced the formation of the first-ever Mexico-based Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST), the latest expansion of the effective BEST initiative to coordinate intelligence sharing on both sides of the border to bolster investigations and crack down on illicit trafficking activities.
The Mexico BEST, comprised of approximately 40 personnel representing four Mexican law enforcement agencies, will work with ICE Attaché Mexico City and other U.S. government agencies to utilize intelligence from seizures by the government of Mexico to respond to leads generated by U.S. law enforcement agencies, including the ten existing Southwest border BESTs.
Secretary Napolitano signed the Letter of Intent following her remarks at ICE's 2009 BEST Conference. In her remarks, she discussed the importance of DHS coordination with Mexico on all aspects of border security and highlighted the BEST teams and other cooperative security efforts - including the arrangement signed today - as examples of the unprecedented coordination between the two nations.
Today's announcement is the most recent arrangement between DHS, the government of Mexico and other federal agencies. In June, Secretary Napolitano joined with Mexican Secretary of Finance and Public Credit Augustín Carstens to sign a Letter of Intent to strengthen bilateral cooperation between the two nations in increasing security and facilitating the flow of legitimate travel and trade.
DHS and the Department of Justice recently enhanced coordination between ATF and ICE to combat international firearms trafficking and between DEA and ICE to disrupt and dismantle drug trafficking organizations.