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Senate approves $600 million in emergency border security funds

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Measure supported by members of both parties
  • Provides for roughly 1,500 new law enforcement agents, aerial drones, operating bases
  • Must now pass House of Representatives
  • Represents 10 percent increase in border security funding, according to Sen. Schumer

Washington (CNN) -- The U.S. Senate approved $600 million in emergency funding to help secure the U.S.-Mexican border on Thursday, on the eve of the Senate's summer recess and ahead of an election season in which immigration and border security are shaping up as major issues.

The bill provides for roughly 1,500 new law enforcement agents, new unmanned aerial vehicles, new forwarding operating bases and $14 million in new communication equipment.

It represents a 10 percent increase in border security spending over 2010, said New York Sen. Charles Schumer, a bill sponsor.

The measure must be passed by the House of Representatives before it can be signed by the president and become law.

"This bipartisan effort shows we are serious about making the border more secure than ever," said Schumer, chairman of the immigration subcommittee, in a statement.

"Now our attention must turn to comprehensive reform, which is the only way to fully address the problem of illegal immigration," he said.

Arizona Sen. John McCain, a Republican co-sponsor of the bill, called its passage a "significant step" toward border security.

"Although, there is a great deal more to be done, I believe today Democrats finally put good policy over politics and agreed we must secure our border first," McCain said in a statement.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano praised the bill's passage Thursday night, saying it would "add important, permanent resources to continue bolstering security on our Southwest border."

"These assets are critical to bringing additional capabilities to crack down on transnational criminal organizations and reduce the illicit trafficking of people, drugs, currency and weapons," she said. " ... I encourage the House to act quickly on this bill to strengthen our historic border security efforts."

The bill is funded by imposing higher fees on personnel companies who import foreign workers into the United States, Schumer said, and avoids adding to the federal deficit.