U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano yesterday warned Mexico’s drug cartels that any attempt to bring their violent tactics across the border would produce a powerful reaction.

The Obama administration has been under intense pressure to beef up security along the southwest border to prevent spillover from raging drug cartel violence in Mexico as well as to stem an influx of illegal immigrants.

“You will be met by an overwhelming response,” she said, referring to the drug cartels, at the University of Texas at El Paso. “And we’re going to continue to work with our partners in Mexico to dismantle and defeat you.”

Last year, President Barack Obama ordered some 1,200 National Guard troops to the border and also signed a $600 million bill to fund 1,500 new Border Patrol agents, customs inspectors and law enforcement officials.

However, border enforcement efforts have faced setbacks. Earlier this month, Napolitano pulled the plug on a “virtual fence” plan. The project, begun in 2006 at a cost of about $1 billion, was designed to use high tech devices to catch illegal immigrants and smugglers trying to cross the border.

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