Napolitano Calls for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Posted June 23, 2010 at 1:45pm

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano had tough words for Congress on Wednesday as she stressed the need for comprehensive immigration reform in addition to stepped-up federal border enforcement.

The notion that reform can only be undertaken once the border is sealed, she said, doesn’t hold water because “you’re never going to totally seal that border.”

“Too often, political bumper-sticker slogans are presented as real solutions. They are not,” Napolitano said. Congress must work “across party lines to enact changes to our immigration laws. … This administration is committed to taking that step.”

Napolitano’s comments, delivered at a Center for Strategic and International Studies panel discussion about border security, come days after Sen. Jon Kyl criticized the Obama administration’s approach to Southwest border enforcement.

The Arizona Republican said the president told him in confidence that the administration would not pursue border enforcement until Congress passed comprehensive immigration reform — a claim that the White House has since denied.

Although Napolitano — formerly a Democratic governor of Arizona and, before that, the state’s attorney general — didn’t call out her home-state Senator by name, she did rattle off a laundry list of accomplishments and new initiatives to prove that the federal government is engaged along the southwestern border.

“This administration has pursued a broad new enforcement and security strategy with a greater urgency and care than anything I have seen since I began my career in public service,” she said. “There is a clear federal responsibility here, and this administration has taken this responsibility seriously from the very start.”

To make her case, she pointed to the $500 million that Obama requested from Congress to increase enforcement, the record levels of Border Patrol and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents along the border, a system by which nonborder states can detail law enforcement agents to the Southwest, and Project Roadrunner, a license plate recognition system.

Apprehension of illegal border-crossers is down, while seizures of drugs, illegal weapons and bulk cash have increased, she added.

And she said collaboration between U.S. and Mexican authorities to curb drug cartel activity has “never been stronger,” while collaboration among federal, state and local law enforcement is similarly robust.

“You might not get that impression from those looking to score political points by saying that border security and enforcement is spinning out of control,” she added.