WASHINGTON — Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Wednesday she is considering new policies to strengthen the U.S. border with Mexico.
Taking aim at politicians who use "bumper sticker" solutions and only "look tough," Napolitano praised the Obama administration for its efforts to increase security along the U.S.-Mexico line, but said the border can be further protected with a variety of approaches.
"We are not satisfied," she said. "There is more work to do."
Her remarks come as President Barack Obama is pressuring Congress to pass an immigration bill before the end of the year. Late Tuesday, the White House released a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., requesting $500 million from Congress for border security.
The funding and a deployment of additional members of the National Guard would augment the new initiatives Napolitano announced. These include a system linking state, local and tribal authorities with the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice to establish a better system to share information.
She also said the federal government will allow state and local police in non-border states to operate in the border regions to help local authorities track smugglers.
The Obama administration, she said, knows protecting the border is a federal responsibility and she is committed to securing it from "Brownsville (Texas) to San Diego."
"I've spent almost my entire life along that Southwest border," the former Arizona governor said. "This is a border I know very well."
Napolitano said the federal government is seeing real progress on the border.
"You may not get this impression from those trying to gain political point by saying the border is spinning out of control," she said, adding that the government is screening rail shipments for weapons, drugs and cash, and the number of security personal along the border has more than doubled since 2004.
The last time Congress attempted to pass an immigration bill in 2007, a bipartisan filibuster blocked the measure. Now some Republican members of Congress are asking for the border to be secured before they'll approve comprehensive changes in immigration rules.
Napolitano said that Republicans shouldn't use the issue to stall legislation.
"The notion that you're going to somehow seal the border and only at that point are you going to discuss immigration reform — that is not an answer," she said.
She added, "in every city and town, Americans want the federal government to secure our borders."
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