Obama signs $600 million border security bill

* Illegal immigration a big issue in mid-term elections

* Lawmakers wary of comprehensive reform

* 1,500 border patrol agents funded through the bill

* Rare display of bipartisanship passed bill

By Matt Spetalnick

WASHINGTON, Aug 13 (BestGrowthStock) – U.S. President Barack Obama
on Friday signed a $600 million bill to beef up security on the
border with Mexico, and his aides pressed lawmakers to set
aside election-year politics and work toward broader
immigration reform.

With illegal immigration seen as a key issue in the
November congressional elections, the administration touted the
border enforcement plan as laying the groundwork for a revived
effort to overhaul the U.S. immigration system.

Congress passed the measure this week and sent it to Obama,
who sought the extra funding amid complaints from southwestern
states that government was failing to seal the border from
illegal immigrants and drug traffickers.

But lawmakers have been reluctant to push ahead on the
hot-button issue of immigration reform, and no serious progress
is likely until after the mid-term ballot.

Obama’s aides insisted the president remained committed to
revamping what he has called a broken immigration system and
challenged Democrats and Republicans to show leadership.

“They will need to address this in a bipartisan way,”
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told reporters at
the White House. “It cannot only be done by Democrats. The
Republicans need to come to the table.”

But mindful of the political climate, administration
officials set no timetable for breaking the deadlock.

Obama has called for comprehensive reform that includes not
only better border security but a pathway to citizenship for
millions of illegal immigrants. Republican critics support a
tighter border but say citizenship proposals would amount to
an amnesty for lawbreakers.

MORE BORDER PATROL AGENTS

The new $600 million will fund some 1,500 new border patrol
agents, customs inspectors and other law enforcement officials
along the border, as well as two more unmanned aerial “drones”
to monitor border activities.

Congress’ speedy approval of the measure marked a rare
display of bipartisanship.

Democratic Senator Charles Schumer hope the bill’s passage
would help break the stalemate over broader immigration reform.
Obama, in a statement issued on Thursday, said he wanted to
continue working toward that goal.

There are believed to be about 11 million illegal
immigrants in the United States. But immigration advocates say
Republicans have inflated concerns about them to put Democrats
on the defensive ahead of the Nov. 2 congressional elections.

With the measure’s passage, members of Congress running for
re-election will be able to spend the next several weeks
boasting that they acted to reinforce the border.

Officials in southwestern states have asked for more help
from the federal government to stem the flow of illegal
immigrants, weapons and narcotics. Obama already has ordered
more National Guard troops to the border for a year.

A federal judge last month blocked key parts of an Arizona
law that sought to drive illegal immigrants out of the state,
handing a victory to the administration, which argued the
measure was unconstitutional.

(Editing by Alan Elsner)

Obama signs $600 million border security bill