Senator backs increased power for ICE agents in drug war

The nominee to head Immigration and Customs Enforcement picked up support Tuesday for expanding the agency's authority to investigate drug crimes.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., made the pledge in a meeting with ICE nominee John Morton, a longtime Justice Department official.

"It makes no sense for the top agency stationed along the border to lack the power to arrest criminals there," Schumer said. "The tentacles of the Mexican cartels have reached beyond guns and drugs and into human smuggling, and we have at least three separate agencies, all with different missions, trying to handle enforcement."

Schumer joins Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., in calling for the additional authority for ICE as the Homeland Security Department makes dealing with Mexico's drug violence a priority.

At a confirmation hearing for Morton last week, Lieberman said turf battles have hindered efforts to crack down on border crimes. The Government Accountability Office also said in a March report that outdated agreements and long-standing disputes have led to conflicts and potentially duplicative efforts between ICE and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

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