Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said it is impossible to close the U.S.-Mexican border to illegal immigration, staking out a significant early Obama administration position in the upcoming immigration reform debate.
Many Republicans insist that before considering a path to legalization for undocumented workers and taking up other aspects of “comprehensive immigration reform,” the United States must act to block further illegal immigration.
However, during an appearance on PBS NewsHour, Napolitano said closing the border is impossible, a clear sign that President Obama will contest the Republicans on the sequence of reform measures and demand doing everything at once.
You know, you’re never going to seal that border. That’s not a possibility. But you can discuss border security and immigration reform simultaneously now. We don’t have to have this kind of first this, then that. At this point, they actually go together.
Napolitano insisted that the administration has already implemented a serious plan to stop illegal immigration and that the influx of undocumented workers is way down.
Look at the numbers and look at what we’ve done on border security. We have more manpower, technology – we actually have air cover now across the entire Southwest border – things that we never had before. Illegal immigration numbers are down to where they were 40 years ago.
Illegal immigration continues, but currently the number of illegal immigrants returning home is about equal to the number entering the United States. And the population of illegal immigrants in the U.S. appears to have declined.
But Napolitano also implicitly acknowledged that the decline is in part dependent on a struggling U.S. economy and an improving Mexican economy, and that the numbers could surge back up if those things change.
One of the things we need to watch for is as our economy recovers, will it become kind of a draw for illegal immigrants?
Napolitano didn’t confirm that immigration reform was next up on Obama “big things to do” list, but everyone expects him to wage a major fight for a comprehensive bill beginning the first half of next year.
Napolitano blamed Congress for the failure of immigration reform to pass during Obama’s first term.
We’ve been very committed from the first term to try to do something on immigration reform. The Hill was not able to take it up for a variety of reasons. But I think now there is a new willingness to take a look at this subject.
In fact, with both the House and Senate under Democratic control, the first two years of the Obama administration was the ideal moment for the president to move an immigration reform package, but he chose to push for Obamacare instead.
H/T to Bridget Johnson at PJ Media.