Statement from the American Immigration Council on Secretary Janet Napolitano’s First Speech on Immigration Reform

Washington D.C. – Today, in her first speech on immigration reform,

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano spoke in great detail about the security and enforcement

measures that her agency has taken under her tenure to enforce current

immigration laws, but she noted “the more work we do, the more it becomes

clear that the laws themselves need to be reformed.”

Speaking at the Center for American Progress, the Secretary laid out her belief that her agency has

done its part to secure the border, a major concern for Congress and the public

during the last round of immigration debates in 2007, but that enforcement

without comprehensive reform was falling short.  “While it’s

important to emphasize the need for immigration reform from an enforcement

perspective, the need for reform stretches far beyond those reasons. We have to

make sure the immigration system works to support American families, businesses

and workers,” said the Secretary.

DHS is also ready to implement reform according to

the Secretary who noted “We’ve ended a year-long backlog for background

checks on applicants for green cards and naturalization. We’ve expanded the

opportunity for a widow to gain legal status here, despite the untimely death

of her U.S.

citizen spouse. We’ve launched a new interactive website that allows people to

receive information about the status of their immigration cases by email or

text message, and we have reduced the time it takes to process those

cases.”

The Secretary concluded “at

the end of the day, when it comes to immigration, people need to be able to

trust the system. Americans need to know that their government is committed to

enforcing the law and securing the border – and that it takes this

responsibility seriously. Law enforcement needs to have better legal tools and

the necessary resources to deal with border-related and immigration-related

crime. Businesses must be able find the workers they need here in America, rather

than having to move overseas. Immigrants need to be able to plan their lives –

they need to know that once we reform the laws, we’re going to have a system

that works, and that the contours of our immigration laws will last. And they

need to know that they will have as many responsibilities as they do

rights…This Administration does not shy away from taking on the big

challenges of the 21st century, challenges that have been ignored too long and

hurt our families and businesses.”

Ben Johnson, Executive Director of the American Immigration Council attended the speech and noted, “Napolitano’s speech

today evidenced a real understanding by the Administration of the comprehensive

policy prescriptions necessary to reform a broken system.  Although she

continues to express support for many enforcement policies – such as local

enforcement of federal laws – that have proven to do more harm than good,

she rightly acknowledged that it is time to move beyond the enforcement-only strategy

of the past 10 years and begin the process of fixing the system.  Her

clear statement on the value of immigrants to our society and economy, and the

important role that immigration reform can play in building a foundation for

growth and prosperity is a welcome response to the angry, misinformed rhetoric

that has otherwise clouded the debate on immigration.”

To watch a video of Secretary Napolitano’s

speech visit www.AmericanProgress.org

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