Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said there are serious “mismatches” in U.S. immigration policy in terms of “our economic needs, our law enforcement needs and our values.”
“I think that, having dealt with border enforcement and immigration enforcement for the last 20 years, I can say it is time to look at the entire system,” she said on PBS last night, expressing optimism that immigration reform may come after the fiscal cliff is negotiated.
“As Congress begins to take this subject up — and we hope they will — we would be there to provide them real assistance and understanding what effects different provisions could have,” she said.
Napolitano brushed off arguments that the border should be secured before tackling immigration reform.
“We have more manpower, technology. We actually have air cover now across the entire Southwest border, things that we never had before,” she said. “…And, 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 this kind of first this, then that. At this point, they actually go together.”
The secretary said they’ll need to watch to see if illegal immigration rebounds after the U.S. economy recovers.
“The Mexican economy is also coming back. That actually has been very helpful. And Mexico now is talking about having its own border patrol on their northern border. That would be very helpful,” she said.
“You have to have the right way for people to come in legally. You have to have the right balance for who can come in to work in — particularly in certain jobs where there’s a continued labor shortage,” Napolitano continued. “And when you do that, it allows us on the enforcement side to focus on those who have more nefarious purposes.”
She said that after President Obama’s re-election, there’s “a new willingness to take a look at this subject.”
“It’s always a tough subject. It has been historically,” Napolitano said. “But we’re at a period in our history where we have an opportunity to really create a 21st century immigration system that fosters legal crossing, legal workers, that then allows us on the enforcement side, as I mentioned, to really focus on those who are here that are dangers to public safety and others.”