(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. border is as “secure as it’s ever been,” which is evidence enough that comprehensive immigration overhaul should start immediately, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said on Tuesday.
Separate commissions, or, as some Republicans have recommended, defined “triggers” are unnecessary, she said.
“Once people really look at the whole system and how it works, relying on one thing as a so-called trigger is not the way to go,” Napolitano said at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
“Getting in the back of the line” is “easier said than done” when the line is constantly fluctuating, she added.
Some Republicans have suggested that before any “pathway to citizenship” for undocumented immigrants can begin, the federal government must prove the border is secure with hard numbers that would convince a new commission or congressional committee.
“Border security is not somehow different than looking at the overall immigration system. They go together,” Napolitano said. “We know the key driver, a key driver, is the demand for labor.”
The secretary added that the United States needs to make legal immigration easier because the slow process provides a real incentive to cross illegally.
“If you are going to be separated from your family for 10 years, and that happens way too often, or if you can’t get the right kind of visa for 15 years,” she said. “If you want to take pressure off the border, you actually have to look at the immigration system as a whole.”
Napolitano repeated her contention on Tuesday that fewer undocumented immigrants are crossing the border illegally than ever before and there is no way to improve those numbers without immigration overhaul.
“We need a national e-verify or national system, so employers have a way to comply with immigration law,” she said. “We need a better way for people to come legally through ports.”
But she conceded that the 11 million undocumented immigrants will need to pay a fine and “get right with the law, they did break the law.”
The secretary says she is optimistic an immigration bill will emerge from Congress because “I’m always optimistic.”
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