WASHINGTON — The United States beginning Wednesday will add a third Predator drone to patrol its border with Mexico, allowing authorities for the first time to monitor the entire stretch of land separating the two neighbors using the unmanned aircraft.
The latest drone joins two others in covering the 2,000-mile (3,200 kilometer) frontier which runs across the states of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, the US Department of Homeland Security said.
With immigration a hot-button issue ahead of looming midterm elections in November, US President Barack Obama earlier this month signed a 600 million dollar bill aimed at reinforcing border security.
His administration is seeking to step up security as it presses for a comprehensive immigration reform measure that likely would allow many of the millions of illegal migrants in the United States to legalize their status.
Many Republican lawmakers say no immigration measure can be considered unless the federal government can ensure security along the southern US border to prevent a spillover from Mexico's crime-ridden north and to prevent the arrival of more undocumented migrants.
The United States, which is deeply concerned by the raging drug war in its southern neighbor, deployed 1,200 National Guard soldiers and 1,500 new agents to the border in recent weeks, as provided for in the recent legislation.
Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano said the first unmanned aerial system (UAS) flight from Corpus Christi in Texas would mean the whole border from California to Texas was now covered.
"With the deployment of an UAS in Texas, DHS unmanned aerial capabilities will now cover the Southwest Border-from the El Centro Sector in California all the way to the Gulf of Mexico in Texas-providing critical aerial surveillance assistance to personnel on the ground," she said.
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