Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano late Friday endorsed the new border security plan being offered in the Senate.
Despite having repeatedly said the border was secure and it didn't need new fencing or a surge in Border Patrol agents, Ms. Napolitano said Friday that she will accept the boosts Congress is proposing — 20,000 new agents to be deployed to the southwestern border and about 350 miles of new pedestrian fencing to be built.
"The president has made clear that commonsense immigration reform legislation must include measures to strengthen border security, create a path to earned citizenship, crack down on employers that hire undocumented workers, and streamline our legal immigration system so everyone is playing by the same set of rules," Ms. Napolitano said in a terse statement her office released. "The border security amendment agreed to by a bipartisan group of Senators is in line with that criteria, it will devote important additional resources to the robust border security system this administration has put in place and strengthen what was already an unmatched piece of border security legislation."
The endorsement is a reversal for Ms. Napolitano, a former Arizona governor who has overseen an increase in manpower and technology along the border and who for years has said the border is already secure.
"Too often the border security refrain simply serves as an excuse," Ms. Napolitano testified to the Senate earlier this year. "Our borders have in fact never been stronger."
She had particularly resisted building more fencing, saying that her agency had already build all the barriers it deemed necessary.
But a bipartisan group of senators, arguing that the public doesn't trust her, has written a new compromise that would spend $44.5 billion over the next decade on more fencing, more agents and more technology.
As originally written, the Senate immigration plan put most of the decision-making about border security in Ms. Napolitano's hands, letting her determine new fencing and deployment of technology.
The new version removes that flexibility, ordering her to place new systems in different locations. For example, it requires her to deploy 685 ground sensors, 50 towers and 73 fixed cameras to Arizona's two sectors, with similar instructions for the other southwest sectors. It also orders her to buy six VADER radar systems and four new drones to be used along the whole southwest border.
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