Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Wednesday the federal government will move to let state and local police in non-border states rotate down to the border to help local authorities go after smugglers along the U.S.-Mexico line.
In a major policy speech in which she took aim at what she called “bumper sticker” slogans and said the Obama administration has made huge strides on security, Miss Napolitano said the border can be made still more secure and said administration officials are in the middle of “surging” more boots on the ground.
“We are not satisfied. There is more work to do,” said Miss Napolitano, a former Arizona governor.
The remarks signal a change in tone for the secretary, who late last year said she believed enough had been done on the border that Congress could turn its attention to legalizing illegal immigrants already in the U.S. The remarks come as President Obama is trying to apply moderate pressure to Congress to pass such an immigration bill this year.
Nearly a month ago, Mr. Obama announced he would deploy up to 1,200 National Guard troops to the southwest border and would request $500 million from Congress to boost law enforcement personnel and infrastructure there, too.
But as of this week, no plan for the Guard deployment has been submitted and it wasn’t until Tuesday that the president actually sent details of his $500 million request to Congress.
Lawmakers are already moving ahead of the president to force a bigger surge of troops. The Senate’s version of the annual defense policy bill calls for 6,000 National Guard troops to be sent to the border.
The last time Congress tried to pass a broad legalization bill, in 2007, it was blocked when a majority of senators joined a bipartisan filibuster.
Then-President George W. Bush and Senate backers of the bill said they had failed to convince Americans the border would be secure, and said that must happen before Congress tried again.
Asked when the border might finally be secure, Miss Napolitano did not answer directly, instead
saying officials will never completely “seal” the border from all activity, including trade.
“The notion that you’re going to somehow seal the border and only at that point are you going to
discuss immigration reform — that is not an answer,” she said.
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