This afternoon Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano held a conference call to discuss the President’s signing of the Southwest Border Security legislation into law. This is the media question and answer session after Secretary Napolitano’s opening remarks:
…Question: Uh, good afternoon Secretary Napolitano. Uh, I have a, a two prong question for you, both related to the funding for this legislation. Uh, the first one is that, uh, this relies on the rescission of a hundred million dollars from SBINet and I know the President, uh, that was part of his original request, but will that in anyway, uh, take away from border security or, or any way divert from, from the efforts that are a part of this bill?
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano: No. Uh, we had proposed that. It had included in the original ask by the President. Uh, after doing an analysis of, of, uh, whether that would have any, uh, uh, any uh [inaudible] impact…
…Question: I see. And, and my second question is this, the, the funding, uh, as I understand, about five hundred fifty million that comes from H1Bs and L visas, is that a dependable source of funding? Because my understanding is that some of these companies, uh, that will bear the burden of these fees, uh, could do things that would remove them from this pool of target companies that are the, the funding source of this bill. So, uh, can the Department of Homeland Security depend on this, uh, as a reliable source of funding?
Secretary Napolitano: Uh, uh, we believe so. Uh, the Senate and the House obviously believe so. And the CBP believes so because they, uh, issued an analysis that, uh, affirmed this source of funding.
Question: Um, I just had a couple quick questions specifically on the, um, forward operating bases. Can you just tell me a little bit more about what those are and have you decided where they’re gonna go? And then just on the overarching, I know you somewhat addressed this in the, um, in the White House briefing, but, um, having been here for a number of years watching, uh, immigration reform and, uh, both the politics and the admin, administrative stuff being done it, it, it seems that’s all that ever has been done in, in the past decade is enforcement. And once again, President Obama has promised, um, immigration reform, uh, comprehensive immigration reform that includes legalization but, what’s come instead is, um, enforcement. Um, I’m just kind of wondering why anyone who has supported the President, uh, in the past would, should support him any longer if he was unable to deliver on this.
Secretary Napolitano: Well, to, on the forward operating base [inaudible] it is exactly, uh, what the name implies. It is a, a, uh, a facility, uh, that will enable Border Patrol agents and, uh, some of their support to be located physically at the border as opposed to, uh, [inaudible] from the border where they have to drive to the border, um, and we have, we’ve got several options for those. We have not yet determined where those are going to be. With respect to your second point I just think it’s inaccurate all the way around. Uh, first of all, uh, the President has done everything, uh, uh, presidentially possible, uh, to affirm his desire for a comprehensive immigration reform bill, uh, that would address enforcement but also address, uh, worker [inaudible] and also address, uh, those illegally in the country and how they, uh, get right with the law and earn, earn the right to, uh, seek the privilege of citizenship. And so, uh, he has, uh, met with, uh, Republican and Democratic leadership. Uh, he’s called them personally. He has, uh, issued, uh, a public, uh, affirmation of the framework that was endorsed by, uh, Senator Schumer and Graham. He’s given a major address at American University. Uh, so he continues to, uh, have this at the top of, uh, the agenda and moving forward. But as you know, and as I said in the White House briefing, he, he can’t introduce, I mean, he can’t pass a bill, I mean. And the Democrats alone cannot pass a bill, they need sixty. And they’re gonna need Republicans, uh, who are willing to, uh, get to the table and really deal with this, uh, major national issue.
Question: Secretary, first off, I was wondering if you could just tell us how the one thousand Border Patrol agents will be dispersed, as far as you know, state by state. And also, a second question, that Texas Governor Rick Perry on Monday gave the President a letter with some, uh, some of his own ideas on how to secure the border. Have you read that letter? And if so, will it have any kind of impact on, on how you’ll be moving forward with the border security issues?
Secretary Napolitano: I have not personally read that letter. I, I, I have read some of the governor’s comments in, in the, in the open press. Uh, but I will tell you, look, we’re not just gonna throw money at the border. Uh, this is all designed to be mission specific. We know exactly, for example, uh, what the National Guard that we’re sending down there are going to do, where they’re going to be. Uh, with respect to the new agents, uh, that are funded in this bill, uh, it takes on average eight months from the time of hire to get a new agent trained, located, and on the ground. And we will put those agents where we think the needs are greatest. Uh, where the needs, uh, and, and that will [inaudible] time as you know. Uh, and so, uh, we will want to be flexible and we want, we will want to put our resources where, uh, the needs, uh, the needs are manifest.
Question: Good, good morning, Secretary. Good afternoon, I guess, there. I did want to follow up on something you talked about, uh, your seventeen years in public service including here as governor. And you, you perennially made an issue of State Criminal Alien Assistance Program funding. And [inaudible] wondering, since you were speaking for the administration, why hasn’t the administration asked for full funding for this the same as you did when you were Arizona governor?
Secretary Napolitano: Well, as you know, SCAAP is, uh, is, uh, funded through the Department of Justice, not the Department of Homeland Security. Uh, uh, but, uh, I think the administration has chosen to support states in a, in a number of other ways. For example, uh, by providing more, uh, what’s called Stone Guard monies for state and local law enforcement. That’s, that’s money that they can use for overtime, to hire new folks, uh, to help pay for, uh, vehicles and equipment that they need for law enforcement, Um, so, uh, those monies have been made available. Uh, more, uh, or COPS funding that, uh, localities can draw down, uh, particularly locales, uh, on the border. Uh, our grant guidance, uh, this year, uh, uh, part of it will be, uh, to support Fusion Centers and Fusion Centers, uh, are very important in places like the bor, like the border. So, from a DHS perspective, since we don’t have SCAAP in our, uh, in our bailiwick, uh, I can’t respond to that, uh, uh, question, but I can say we have looked for many other ways to support state and local law enforcement.
Question: Uh, Secretary, the question that I had was specific to New Mexico. Um, I know there’s been a lot of, uh, focus on Arizona and now some focus on Texas. Um, in terms of the assets and how they’re allocated, uh, throughout the states I know that you can’t specifically say exactly how much is, uh, going where, but what does this mean for New Mexico on the grand scope of things?
Secretary Napolitano: Uh, well, uh, thank you, uh, well, what it means is, is that, uh, we will continue to, to put resources in New Mexico, uh, uh, to deal with th
e situation there. It is a somewhat different situation, just plain old numbers wise, uh, than you have in Arizona and Texas and so the resources we deploy, uh, there will reflect that. But they will all be designed to make sure we have a safe and secure border, uh, throughout, uh, the southwest, uh, for all, all of the four border states, California, Arizona, New Mexico, and, and Texas. Uh, I say that, um, as someone who actually grew up in New Mexico, so, uh, just as I keep a special eye on Arizona as the former governor, I have a lot of personal experience with New Mexico as well.
Question: Uh, Madam Secretary, back to Governor Perry, uh, you said that the, uh, uh, the border’s no place for, for politics. Uh, uh, when you said that did, were you personally referring to Governor Perry? Do you believe he’s politicizing the border and his constant criticism of, uh, of, uh, your administration’s efforts?
Secretary Napolitano: Yeah, uh, no I was not specifically referring to Governor Perry. I know Governor Perry and, and I’ve worked with him for a number of years. Uh, we, we were fellow border governors, uh, together. Uh, uh, I do believe that the border, whether you’re dealing with it, uh, back here in Washington, D.C. or out, uh, in the southwest, uh, needs to be addressed for what it is. It’s a, an important, uh, area for the country, lots of trade and commerce [inaudible] those ports. Uh, you’ve got those huge ports, uh, in Texas, for example the, uh, through which a tremendous amount of trade needs to pass and they’re responsible for a number of jobs, uh, in the United States. Uh, and then you’ve got to protect the area between the ports and you’ve got to have interior enforcement, so it’s a whole system of manpower, technology, infrastructure to have in place. And this administration, quite frankly, has put more resources in the southwest border in all of those categories than has ever been put there before in, in United States history.
Question: Good afternoon, Secretary. Have you personally spoken with Senators McCain or Kyl here in your home state about the prospect of immigration reform and what do they say to you?
Secretary Napolitano: Uh, I, I met with both of them, but I would say it has been, uh, uh, probably some time ago, so I think you, it would not be, uh, correct to say that the, the three of us are in a constant dialog about that.
Question: Uh, yes, Madam Secretary, uh, the governor of Virginia has offered to, uh, have Virginia State Police be deputized to enforce federal immigration law in the commonwealth. Uh, I have done some, uh, interviews with some people in, for example, Hanover County, where they say they can’t, uh, harvest the tomato crops without immigrant labor, both legal and illegal. Is the administration open to the governor’s offer to, uh, deputize our state police to enforce immigration law?
Secretary Napolitano: Well, I, I think, uh, uh, ICE is currently, uh, reviewing nine separate juris, there are nine jurisdictions that have, uh, current applications in. They’re called 287G agreements. Uh, uh, deputization would not I think be the right word. It’s where, uh, certain mem, uh, a certain number of state police or local police are trained in immigration enforcement and work, uh, either in jails, uh, or in task force settings with federal agents. Uh, and we have, uh, uh, really, uh, uh, reformed that program to be, to, uh, uh, to be what it needs to be and to have the kind of accountability it needs to have. So, Virginia’s application is pending and ICE will review it. Uh, I’m not sure how that relates to the second part of your question, which is the lack of agricultural workers, uh, except to say that that is something we hear all over the United States. Uh, uh, indeed, uh, uh, uh, you, you hear it in border states and in states, uh, uh, like Washington, uh, in terms of, uh, picking the apple crop, in Washington State, and that all goes to demonstrating the need for overall immigration reform.
Question: Good afternoon, Secretary. Well, um, my question is twofold and I’m curious whether the new money will give the, uh, department a new opportunity to work clo, more closely with the individual police departments along the border. There continue to be these anecdotes of the Zetas moving into Texas and to some Texas ranches and I’m curious how that’s been responded to. And then also, whether the, um, the department is going to deal any differently with the issue of whether Mexico, now talking seriously about legalizing drugs, showing some fatigue on the drug war and how will the, the response be different to them?
Secretary Napolitano: Well, uh, uh, because we continue to augment and put resources at the border, uh, because some of them are going to be used for intelligence gathering and analysis, uh, they will be working, uh, on some of those issues like the Zetas, uh, uh, and working with institutions like EPIC for example, uh, to make sure that resources are focused where they need to. We don’t want those, uh, large organizations, uh, infiltrating, uh, even more into the United States. Again, a safe and secure border zone all the way from San Diego to Brownsville. Uh, and different cartels, uh, claim turf or jurisdiction over different parts of the border, so we’re very conscious of that, uh, and we’re going to keep working to, to prevent that from occurring.