Border security funding heads to South Texas
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June 5, 2009 - 9:33 PM

Millions of dollars in border security funding is headed to South Texas, U.S. Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Corpus Christi, said Thursday.

Operation Stonegarden, a federal grant program that provides funding for law enforcement efforts, will direct 76 percent of its funds to Southwestern states, including Texas. Last year, just 59 percent of those funds went to the same states.

"I am happy to learn that a good portion of this money will go to make our borders along the Rio Grande safer for all who live there," Ortiz said in a press release. "It is important for federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to work together for the common good of all South Texans."

In all, $2.9 million dollars will be directed to Ortiz's District 27, which includes Cameron, Nueces, Kleberg, San Patricio and Willacy counties. Cameron County, which was the only county in District 27 to receive funding last year, will receive $266,159 more than last year, for a total of $876,159.

Hidalgo and Starr counties will get $4.64 million, up from about $1.76 million in 2008.

The funding will be used jointly by local, state and, in some cases, tribal law enforcement. A plan of action must be in place for funding to be released.

"The violence we have been faced with in the past few years along the U.S.-Mexico border has caused a great scare among residents of my district," Ortiz said. "We cannot afford for such violence to continue. We must find all possible means to continue to fight this war on drug trafficking, and these funds are a move in that direction."

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., also aim to bring money to border security through the Border Law Enforcement Anti-Drug Trafficking Act of 2009, which they introduced Friday. If approved, the legislation would establish a grant program to assist law enforcement in Southwestern states and provide resources for law enforcement to obtain equipment, hire staff, enhance detention operations and provide training, among other uses.