The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement created a memorandum of understanding on June 30 stating that the two organizations will become partners in both the investigations of international firearms trafficking as well as in the handling of illegal immigrants who possess firearms.
“Everything is really the same; it just formalized our partnership.”
William McMahon, the Deputy Assistant Director for field operations at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said in an interview on the Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Jane Norris.
“Throughout this time, we’ve been working very closely with ICE. Obviously with more and more resources going there, it was better to get something down on paper so that we can have a more defined road for each of us in how we are going to be conducting investigations jointly.”
Due to the increase in violence along the Southwest border and the need for more resources to be funneled to the area to fight the problems, an updated MOU was needed, McMahon said.
“We had an MOU with Customs when they were apart of the Treasury department back in 1978. Obviously in 2003, when ICE was formed and ATF became a part of the Justice Department, it was time to update that MOU and that’s what we did on June 30.”
According to McMahon, the two agencies complement each other in the way the approach the problem of gun trafficking along the border, with ATF working the interior and ICE focusing on the border.
“That partnership that we have is when they (ICE) make a seizure along the border of firearms, they can get in contact with us. We can tie that into where those guns are coming from, and take the whole chain down. We use our expertise on firearms coupled with ICE’s expertise along the border and port of entry and illegal aliens. Obviously, together, we can do a lot more than individually.”
While the partnership has been established by the heads of the agencies, it is really the lower level workers that are key to the cooperation.
“It’s really the agents on the ground, the boots on the ground, that are working together, either on joint operations or when ATF has an investigation,” McMahon said.
“If ICE has some information that there is a group of individuals moving firearms across the border they’ll contact us and we can work together from both ends.”