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Napolitano Outlines Immigration Priorities

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Napolitano Outlines Immigration Priorities


Napolitano Outlines Immigration Priorities

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President Obama's head of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, recently toured the Midwest to see how the region is recovering from recent storms. That's just one of many challenges Napolitano faces in her new role. Here's another. Last week, the non-partisan Migration Policy Institute issued a scathing report on Homeland Security's immigration policy. As the New York Times put it, the report was, quote, "a portrait of dysfunction." My colleague, Madeleine Brand, spoke earlier with Janet Napolitano.

MADELEINE BRAND: As governor of Arizona, you were on the front lines of the immigration debate. You signed the toughest law in the nation against employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. How will you change federal immigration policy?

Ms. JANET NAPOLITANO (Head, Department of Homeland Security): First of all, the rule of law applies on the border, and we want to make sure that that happens, number one. That means manpower. That means technology, things like ground sensors. It means interior enforcement against those who intentionally are going into the illegal labor market and creating a demand for illegal labor. So that's all going to continue.

How we do that may change, with me as a new secretary. But we want to make sure the rule of law is applied and applied fairly and forcefully across the border. And then, we'll look for ways to - through our administrative process - facilitate the applications of citizenship for those who are entitled to become citizens. Are there things that we can streamline, some red tape that we can cut? Those are the kinds of things we want to look at as well.

BRAND: OK. This report criticizes the 700-mile border fence, very controversial, this fence between the U.S. and Mexico, a fence the GAO says costs $4 million per mile. Will you continue building that fence?

Ms. NAPOLITANO: Well, the section of the fence for which Congress actually appropriated funds has been complete. But I've been one of the people out there saying look, you cannot build a fence from San Diego to Brownsville, Texas and call that an immigration policy. You've got to have boots on the ground. You've got to have technology. You've got to have interior enforcement of our workplace laws. Some fencing in some places may make sense, but only if it's part of an overall system.

BRAND: We have an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in this country. What do you do about them?

Ms. NAPOLITANO: Well ultimately, that's for the Congress to decide. And at some point in time, I think the president, the Congress, will work out when it's appropriate to take that topic up again. But right now, we're focusing on human traffickers, those who are really exploiting this illegal market to great financial gain. We're going after those in our country illegally who have also committed other crimes. We're going after those who are in our jails and prisons who are also in our country illegally to make sure that once they complete their sentences, they're immediately subject to deportation.

BRAND: You know, in the past several years, there have been a controversial raids on places where illegal immigrants have been rounded up and deported and often quite wrenching scenes of mothers and children being separated and sent across the border, and I'm just wondering if you are going to change the policy of these workplace raids.

Ms. NAPOLITANO: Well, what we are going to do is really focus on the employers and make sure that they are subject to criminal penalties for violating the law. I met with the attorney general of the United States, Eric Holder, to talk about how we unite the forces of the U.S. Attorney's offices across the country with our offices to make sure that those who are actually benefiting financially from it - large scale from this - really pay a criminal sanction.

BRAND: So it sounds a lot like the state law that you signed, this very strict law that basically you would revoke the business license of a company that has knowingly hired an illegal immigrant caught the second time to have done that. Would you like that to be a federal policy?

Ms. NAPOLITANO: Again, that's for the Congress and the president. You've got to deal with the demand side for illegal immigration. And, you know, it's interesting. That state law, I don't think there had actually been any cases brought under it in its first year or so of enactment, but it may have had some deterrent effect because we did see the numbers begin to go down in Arizona. Now, that may also be attributable to the fact that the national economy has taken a nose dive, and the demand for labor has also gone down.

BRAND: Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. Thank you.

Ms. NAPOLITANO: Thank you so much.

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