Immigration reform is the “No. 1” legislative priority for the Department of Homeland Security this year, trumping cybersecurity issues, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Monday at a POLITICO Playbook breakfast. “…I would say, frankly, that our No. 1 priority in terms of legislation is immigration,” Napolitano told POLITICO’s Mike Allen at a breakfast marking the 10th anniversary of the agency. “It is high time for immigration reform.”
Once, the barren mesas and shrub-covered canyons that extend east of the Pacific Ocean held the most popular routes for illegal immigrants heading into the U.S. Dozens at a time sprinted to waiting cars or a trolley stop in San Diego, passing border agents who were too busy herding others to give pause.
Now, 20 years after that onslaught, crossing would mean scaling two fences (one topped with coiled razor wire), passing a phalanx of agents and eluding cameras positioned to capture every incursion. The difference is like “a rocket ship and a horse and buggy,” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said on a recent tour.
Automatic spending cuts due March 1 could pose a real setback for immigration reform by forcing the Border Patrol to reduce its workforce hours by the equivalent of 5,000 agents beginning in April — a nearly one-quarter reduction.
That’s the upshot of testimony by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday. The number 5,000 is the most detailed public assessment yet by her department of the fallout from the threatened sequester.
The Senate opened its first hearing on a comprehensive immigration overhaul Wednesday with a call from a committee chairman for swift action on a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants. Tensions quickly emerged as shouting protesters interrupted the hearing and Republicans called for border security first. “The president is right: Now is the time,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., told a packed hearing room a day after President Barack Obama used his State of the Union address to renew his call for immigration reform and eventual citizenship for illegal immigrants.
The emotions surrounding the issue were on display as protesters shouted down the first witness, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, calling for an end to deportations. The protesters were ushered out. Napolitano declared the border more secure than ever and rejected the argument that border security must be the focus before comprehensive immigration reform or any pathway to legalization can be done.
The United States Secretary for Homeland Security Janet Napolitano met yesterday with Alejandro Poire the Mexican Secretary of the Interior at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC. Reforma reports that they spoke of the bilateral relationship, and both asserted that the Mexico-US relationship had never been stronger.
At a luncheon Monday at a Washington think tank, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Mexican Interior Secretary Alejandro Poire touted how they’ve teamed up to fight drug and weapons trafficking, money laundering and human smuggling. Simultaneously, they warned that progress could be stalled if not continued by the next administrations in both countries…“I think the reality is there is more day-to-day cooperation on an operational level on very sensitive issues than we’ve ever seen before,” said Andrew Selee, director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, which hosted the event. “At the same time, there is a great deal of distrust between and among agencies. And there are crises of trust and political taboos that are still hard to break…”
While the two countries have been sharing intelligence for years, Poire and Napolitano said the drops in border crossings by illegal immigrants has created “more space” to improve ties.
Illegal immigration has long been one of the “open wounds” between the two countries, Selee said.
The Woodrow Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute is pleased to invite you to:
Reviewing the U.S.-Mexico Security Relationship
On September 17th from 12:00-1:15
Hon. Janet Napolitano, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security
Hon. Alejandro Poiré, Mexico’s Secretary of the Interior
Please arrive early as seating will be limited
Lunch will be provided
Secretary Napolitano has served as Secretary of Homeland Security under President Barack Obama since 2008 and was previously Governor of Arizona. Alejandro Poiré is Mexico’s Secretary of the Interior. He served previously as National Security Advisor, Director of the National Intelligence Center, and Professor at Harvard University.
Dolia Estévez, Senior Mexican Correspondent and Foreign Affairs Analyst for the Mexico Institute, interviewed Janet Napolitano in Washington, D.C. During their private conversation, the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS) spoke about the current state of the U.S.-Mexico border, arguing that it had never been as safe as it is now and thus cannot be used as an “excuse” – particularly by Republicans – to deter the advancement of a comprehensive migration reform. Napolitano also stated that she foresees approval of the Dream Act soon.
Read full interview Lucha contra el narco está inconclusa.
Shannon K. O’Neill, Latin America’s Moment, Council on Foreign Relations blog, 8/24/11
The U.S. debates over Mexico’s drug war increasingly focus on spillover violence. Border state governors Rick Perry and Jan Brewer insist that Mexican cartels are hitting their states hard, portraying the border as a lawless “war zone” in which the drug cartels and illegal Mexicans incite “terror and mayhem” on a daily basis. In stark contrast, Customs and Border Protection (CPB) Commissioner Alan Bersin and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano contend that the border has never been safer.
The statistics bear out the latter position. A recent study based on FBI figures shows that violent crime in cities within 50 miles of the border is consistently lower than state and national averages. The robbery rate in the Texas border region, for example, remained at least 30 percent lower than the state average for every year in the past decade. The data also show that the number of kidnapping cases in border areas dropped by more than half since 2009. This doesn’t mean that bad things don’t happen – they do. But they happen less frequently along the border, on average, than in other parts of the United States. Despite local politicians’ concerns and rhetoric, the border is more secure than in the past, and in fact safer than the rest of the country.
ABC News, 11/30/2010
The U.S. and Mexico are planning a pilot program that would allow trustworthy frequent flyers easier passage through immigration and customs. Mexico Interior Secretary Francisco Blake says the program will allow passengers who meet security requirements and fly often to the U.S. to pass faster through immigration lines at airports.
Blake and U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano met in Mexico City on Tuesday and signed an agreement of intent to launch the program. Blake said the 84,000 Mexicans who belong to a program allowing them to drive through the border in special fast-crossing lanes will probably qualify for the new initiative.
The new system would be an expansion of Global Entry, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection program open to U.S. citizens, permanent residents and citizens of some other countries.