BROWNSVILLE, Texas (AP) _ Texas will have more than two dozen new federal prosecutors in border districts to help fight drug, human and weapons smuggling along the U.S.-Mexico border, a Justice Department official said Friday.
Deputy Attorney General Mark Filip announced the 64 new assistant U.S. attorney posts in four border states during a visit to Brownsville that included a stop at the port of entry. He made a twin announcement in Tucson on Thursday.
Filip said the additions will send the message that "ignoring the border just got a whole lot riskier."
Texas will get 29 new prosecutors, while Arizona will get 21 and California and New Mexico will each receive 7, said Filip, who noted that the additions were "targeted resources requested by each district."
The Southern Judicial District, which stretches from Houston to the border, will get 13 new proseuctors. The Western District, which covers Laredo, West Texas and other areas, will get 16. Support positions were included in the congressional appropriation, Filip said.
The Justice Department is allocating an additional $7 million to pay for the prosecutors and new support staff.
The funds are available immediately and for the next two years. The Justice Department has requested another $100 million in its fiscal 2009 budget to help fight criminal activity along the border, Filip said.
The U.S. attorneys in the five affected border judicial districts "will have substantial flexibility to devote those resources to the most pressing law enforcement needs in their districts," he said.
Filip said the Rio Grande Sector, which covers Brownsville, McAllen and other Rio Grande Vally points, caught more than 73,000 illegal immigrants in the last fiscal year, accounting for 8 percent of all immigrants apprehended on the southern border. Laredo, he said, accounted for another 7 percent.
"That's a lot of cases; and it doesn't include all the marijuana seizures, or other felony cases along the border," he said.
The new prosecutors will focus on suspected drug and human traffickers but also prosecute immigrants for entering the U.S. illegally. In the past, captured immigrants with no previous criminal record in this country have just been bused back to the border and returned to Mexico.
Filip, who was sworn into his post as Attorney General Michael Mukasey's second-in-command last month, said that he "wanted to get here as soon as possible because border issues are among the top priorities of the Department of Justice."
Associated Press writers Arthur Rotstein in Tucson and Lara Jakes Jordan in Washington contributed to this report.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.