Homeland Security Sec. Janet Napolitano last week renewed the Obama administration’s promise that it will deal with immigration reform early next year, political calculations in an election year notwithstanding.
“We’re ready to go, and the president wants to get it done,” Napolitano said during a conversation with The Arizona Republic‘s editorial board, according to the newspaper from the secretary’s home state.
Democrats on Capitol Hill who worry about casting a potentially toxic vote in an election year should not make those calculations, she added, because immigration reform, like the health care overhaul that appears to be nearing passage in the Senate, is among “the big items on the agenda that need to be done for the long-term future of the country.”
Watch an Arizona Republic video of the conversation:
Napolitano also insisted on a point DHS has been making recently: that the border with Mexico is much safer and more secure now, so the debate on immigration can move on to issues like how to treat undocumented migrants who are already in the country.
“What we are prepared to do is provide answers to questions, to show that from every law-enforcement measure, the Southwest border is not the same border as it was two years ago. And two years ago it wasn’t the same border as two years before.
“The congressional marks for number of agents and miles of fence are all being met. All the numbers (of immigrants entering the country) are down. The argument that there is this uncontrolled flow of people into the country just doesn’t match with the facts.
“And I say that as somebody who has been working on border issues since 1993. So I think a lot of these ideas have been hashed and rehashed. We have some new things to add to the mix that technology provides us (in workplace enforcement) that we didn’t have in 2007. We’re ready to go, and the president wants to get it done.”
The secretary also repeated another key point about the immigration bill: that it needs to be debated in Congress “early in 2010” to have a chance to make it out of Washington.
Napolitano said there is real public support for immigration reform.
“The numbers are very consistent –she said–. The numbers haven’t changed in the last several years. It’s two-thirds, one-third. Two-thirds want immigration fixed. Two-thirds understand that you’re not going to deport 10 to 11 million people. We want them to pay a fine, to get right with the law, to pay a sanction for violating our immigration laws. And there is one-third that don’t (want reform).”