Napolitano: OK, The Border Is Secure … Can We Have Reform Now?
BENJY SARLIN FEBRUARY 13, 2013, 12:03 PM
For years, the Republican base has demanded a more patrolled, better reinforced, and more secure border as a prerequisite to even discussing immigration policy. Janet Napolitano had a message for them at Wednesday’s Senate hearing: Congratulations, you won!
“Our borders have, in fact, never been stronger,” Napolitano testified.
Boasting of the “unprecedented progress we have made” in border security since the last immigration debate, Napolitano noted that the number of Border Patrol agents had doubled since 2004, border apprehensions had plummeted 78 percent from their 2000 peak, and a variety of new technologies had been deployed to stop illegal crossings. And net migration in recent years has been negative, meaning more people are leaving the United States than entering it.
“Speaking as someone who, as Arizona’s U.S. attorney, attorney general, and governor experienced the flood of illegal immigration in the early part of the century,” Napolitano said in her testimony. “That situation no longer exists.”
Napolitano argued that the biggest remaining danger to border security was the nation’s failure to address its 11 million undocumented immigrants. According to Napolitano, legalization of existing, law-abiding undocumented immigrants would free DHS to devote its full resources to tracking and removing known criminals and drug smugglers. An accompanying crackdown on employers who hire undocumented workers would then “eliminate the main driver of illegal immigration: the desire to find work.”