Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano testified in an oversight hearing today before the Senate Judiciary Committee. While reinforcing her commitment to securing our borders and enforcing our immigration laws in smart and effective ways, Napolitano also reaffirmed her commitment to immigration reform as a way to strengthen our immigration enforcement policies—a commitment that includes, as Secretary Napolitano notes, responsibility and accountability from everyone involved:

We look forward to working with you on immigration reform. The President is committed to that. He is committed to reform that includes serious, effective and sustained enforcement—that includes improved legal flows for workers and family members and a firm way to deal with those who already illegally in the country. We need to demand responsibility and accountability from everyone involved—DHS, law enforcement partners, businesses who must be able to find the workers they need here in America and immigrants themselves—as we enforce the law moving forward.

In her opening remarks, Secretary Napolitano stressed DHS’s achievements in enforcing immigration law in past year, including:

  • Implementation of a southbound strategy to prevented illegal weapons and cash from crossing the border into Mexico and supporting the large drug cartels—noting that seizures in all categories—drugs, smuggled cash, illegal weapons—are dramatically up;
  • A record removal of 136,000 criminal aliens;
  • Improved oversight and renegotiation of the 287g program, which allows the DHS to enter into agreements that delegate immigration powers to local police;
  • The enhancement and expansion of E-verify;
  • Reformation of immigration detentions system to ensure those in custody are treated humanely, given appropriate, timely medical care; and
  • An effort to improve federal oversight and management, including more direct supervision of detention facilities by ICE.

Secretary Napolitano also fielded questions from Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) on the unnecessary detention of asylum seekers; Senator Feingold (D-WI) on racial profiling abuses with 287(g)/Secure Communities programs; Sen. Feinstein (D-CA) on agricultural jobs and our Visa Waiver Program; and Sen. Sessions (R-AL) on the effectiveness of her approach to interior enforcement, among other questions.

Although Secretary Napolitano highlighted enforcement as DHS’s top priorities, she also stressed the importance of immigration enforcement policies that are framed within the context of comprehensive immigration reform and consistent with our values as a nation of immigrants. Ultimately, Secretary Napolitano acknowledges that a failure to reform our immigration system is a failure to address our problems with enforcement.

We can no longer perpetuate a status quo that is unacceptable for workers, employers, law enforcement, faith leaders, and America as a whole. We must seize this moment to build a truly effective immigration system that deters illegal immigration, provides effective and enduring enforcement tools, protects workers from exploitation and retaliation, and creates a tough but fair path to legalization for the millions of illegal immigrants already here.

Photo by timesonline.

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