By Mike Klein, Editor
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano side-stepped whether the White House will challenge Georgia’s new immigration law in federal court when she spoke to an Atlanta Press Club luncheon on Saturday, but the secretary left no doubt President Barack Obama has no interest in state-by-state immigration reform.
“Those legal determinations will be made in consultation with the Department of Justice, but I think these efforts at the state-by-state level, first of all, they are predicated on a falsity,” Napolitano said at The Commerce Club. “The falsity is that there has been nothing done and the border somehow is out of control. That is incorrect,” she said in response to a question.
Napolitano listed several homeland security improvements during prepared remarks, among them, doubling the number of border patrol agents to 21,000, an increase in analysts who focus on Mexican cartel violence, a fivefold increase in the agents who work directly with Mexican enforcement, and screening all southbound trains for guns and cash.
Napolitano is a former U.S. prosecutor in Arizona where she also served six years as governor. Arizona enacted Senate Bill 1070 reform legislation last year that was challenged by the U.S. Justice Department. A federal Court of Appeals upheld part of the government challenge..
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal’s office says he will sign House Bill 87 which is similar but not identical to the Arizona legislation. Georgia legislation was passed by the General Assembly this year as a statement that state legislators are tired of waiting for federal immigration reform.
The Department of Homeland Security says Georgia has 480,000 illegal immigrant residents.
Napolitano told the Atlanta Press Club, “This is what the President has said and what I’ve been saying. State by state won’t cut it. It’s got to be a federal reform of immigration laws if we are really going to deal with this issue. Look at the way our system is set up. Read the case law. Read the Constitution and you will realize immigration is fundamentally a federal issue.”
The secretary said reform should update enforcement– particularly where fines and penalties are not substantial; update visa laws for temporary workers – she named the agriculture and high tech industries; pass the Dream Act that would create a path to citizenship for illegals who were brought here as children; and decide how to proceed with millions more who are in the country illegally “so they can come out of the shadows.”
The Homeland Security secretary’s Atlanta public appearance came six days after President Barack Obama announced a successful hit on Osama bin Laden. “There really is no doubt that al Qaeda or an al Qaeda affiliate or those inspired by its ideology continue to focus their attacks on the West and their thoughts and attacks on the United States,” Napolitano said.
“What does that mean? That does not mean that we live in fear or we walk around in a constant state of alarm. What it means is that we just have to remain ever vigilant against these threats and others from those who would see to attack us and our way of life.”