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10/22/2010

Secretary Napolitano and Secretary Cordero applaud first-ever class of ICE-trained Mexican Customs officials

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. - U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton joined Mexican Secretary of Finance Ernesto Cordero Arroyo and Tax Administration Service and Customs Director Alfredo Gutiérrez Ortiz-Mena to host the first-ever graduation of Mexican customs officials from a 10-week, ICE-led investigator training course at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Academy in North Charleston, S.C.

"Our efforts to crack down on criminal organizations and others who threaten the safety of our citizens and our economy require close cooperation between the United States and Mexico," said Secretary Napolitano. "Today's historic graduation of Mexican customs officials from this U.S.-led investigator training course reflects the unprecedented collaboration between our two nations to better combat transnational crime while facilitating legitimate travel and trade."

"A well-functioning border is an opportunity for growth - it opens doors to commercial exchange, peace, progress and human development," said Secretary Cordero.

Twenty-four men and women from Mexico's Tax Administration Service and Customs participated in the inaugural session of the Mexican customs investigator training conducted by ICE agents.

The course included coursework in both Mexican and U.S. customs law, as well as training in a wide variety of investigative techniques, officer safety tactics, and ethics - helping to provide the graduates with the tools and knowledge necessary to combat cross-border crime, including money laundering, customs offenses and weapons and drug trafficking, in close coordination with ICE special agents and other U.S. law enforcement officials.

President Obama is committed to shared responsibility with President Felipe Calderón and the government of Mexico to secure the Southwest border and ensure the security of both nations through programs such as the Mérida Initiative - the cornerstone of U.S.-Mexico security cooperation. The Mexican customs investigator training course is part of this multiyear, Department of State-led initiative - designed to provide assistance to Mexico and Central America in the form of capacity building, training and equipment to better equip law enforcement agencies to complete their missions. The United States has appropriated $1.4 billion in aid for Mexico through the initiative - including resources to provide training and equipment to support law enforcement operations.

Over the past year, Secretary Napolitano and her Mexican counterparts have engaged in an unprecedented level of cooperation, signing a number of bilateral agreements and declarations to bolster cooperation in the areas of enforcement, information and intelligence sharing, joint operations and trade facilitation along the Southwest border.

DHS has doubled the number of law enforcement personnel assigned to DHS's Border Enforcement Security Task Forces (BEST), multi-agency teams that collaborate to identify, disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations which pose significant threats to border security and coordinate intelligence sharing on both sides of the border. The formation of the first-ever Mexico-based BEST was announced by Secretary Napolitano in August of 2009.