The Southern and Southwestern United States can rest easy now; Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Wednesday that U.S. borders have “never been stronger.”
Napolitano made her remarks during an immigration reform hearing in the Senate. She argued:
I often hear the argument that before reform can move forward, we must first secure our borders. But too often, the ‘border security first’ refrain simply serves as an excuse for failing to address the underlying problems. It also ignores the significant progress and efforts that we have undertaken over the past four years. Our borders have, in fact, never been stronger.
Two Southern senators took issue with her. Jeff Sessions of Alabama and John Cornyn of Texas. Cornyn said, “I do not believe that the border is secure, and I still believe we have a long, long way to go.”
Napolitano tried to make Barack Obama’s case for him, arguing that addressing border security by itself first before dealing with the illegal immigrants already here was not the correct way to deal with the problem. Obama wants to give the illegal immigrants already here a pathway to citizenship while he deals with security issues; opponents want the border security first.
We know the main driver of illegal immigration … is the ability to work, but we don’t have the tools to support the border with effective worker requirement and prosecution tools against employers. Improving the legal migration system so that people can get visas — they go through our ports, we know who they are, we know what their biometrics are, we know where they’re going, having an employer sanction system — will enable us to better focus on those who really are nefarious and are trying to do us harm.
But GOP members think that this may be a repeat of the era after 1986’s immigration reform bill, when funds to tighten security were unavailable, and the number of illegal immigrants soared.
Napolitano said that border-crossings are down, while confiscation of drugs, illegal cash and weapons officials is increasing. Cornyn noted a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study that disputed that, saying that Customs and Border Patrol had “varying levels of operational control” over only 44 percent of the border between Mexico and the United States, which is 2,000 miles long. Napolitano disagreed, stating that “operational control” is not an accurate reflection of the job her agency is doing.
“Operational control,” according to the GAO, simply means “the number of border miles where Border Patrol had the ability to detect, respond, and interdict cross-border illegal activity.”
Napolitano had no comparable yardstick to offer to bolster her statements.