Napolitano: 'Our Borders Have Never Been Stronger'
Cornyn then highlighted fiscal year 2012, when 683 illegal aliens from terrorist-sponsored and terror watch list nations were apprehended coming across the southwestern border.
"Well, Senator, obviously we want the border to prevent likely terrorists from entering our country. Everybody would agree with that," Napolitano said. "...So if we want to say, look, we want you to catch -- we want you to focus on terrorists, narco-traffickers, transnational criminal organizations, one way to do that, and really the only way to do that, is to take some of these others and focus on the legal migration system."
A Republican member of the Group of Eight working on immigration reform, Sen. Jeff Flake (R), took issue with Napolitano's statements.
“Despite the administration’s rhetoric, there is much more needed to secure the border, particularly in the Tucson sector,” said Flake. “Any definition of a strong immigration system must include border security, which is why making it a priority in the immigration bill being drafted is crucial.”
Over at the White House today, President Obama split the Group of Eight into four -- the Democrats who were part of the coalition that upstaged Obama's Las Vegas immigration reform speech by announcing their framework the day before.
Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), joined by Vice President Biden and senior staff, convened with Obama this evening. "In the meeting the president reiterated the key principles he believes must be a part of any bipartisan, commonsense effort, including continuing to strengthen border security, creating an earned path to citizenship, holding employers accountable, and streamlining legal immigration," said a readout from the White House.
"The President also expressed his belief that continuing to strengthen our borders and creating a path to earned citizenship that ensures everyone plays by the same set of rules are shared goals and should not be seen as mutually exclusive," it continued. "The President thanked the Senators for their work to date and told them that while he was pleased with the progress, he expects the process to continue to move forward and stands ready to introduce his own legislation if Congress fails to act."
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Napolitano that it's time to fix the system "with the goal in mind that there will be no third wave of illegal immigration."
"To put it in context, we're not being overrun by Canadians, are we?" he said.
"Not as far as I can tell," she responded.
In the Senate today, Republicans not waiting for the Group of Eight -- if not permanently fractured by Obama -- were introducing their own bills that tackled bits and pieces of reform.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced a bill that would allow dairy workers, sheepherders, and goat herders to apply for year-round farmworker visas without providing a path to citizenship, and another bill to eliminate the per-country cap on high-skilled immigrants.
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) introduced a package of bills that included the elimination of birthright citizenship for children of illegal immigrants (co-sponsored by Lee and Arkansas GOP Sen. John Boozman), prohibiting federal funding for sanctuary cities, preventing illegal immigrants from claiming the Child Tax Credit, and making voting a deportable offense for illegal immigrants.
“Acknowledging a need for immigration reform is one thing, agreeing on enforcement seems to be a completely different story,” Vitter said. “While the rift continues amongst the Gang of Eight on enforcement, I’m working on a few targeted reforms that could help solve our illegal immigration problem and avoid amnesty by putting enforcement first.”