NPR Story
3:44 pm
Wed February 13, 2013

Napolitano: Border Secure, But Not Done

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told a Senate Judiciary committee Wednesday that the border is more secure now than ever before. But she said, "are we done? No."

Senators grilled Napolitano about incomplete border fences, taking deportation too far and not taking it far enough. Many challenged her definition of border security.

"Fewer people are trying to immigrate illegally in this country than in four decades," Napolitano said. "Drug seizures, contraband seizures all the numbers that need to be up are up. And what I know is we’re actually removing more people from the country than ever before."

But Napolitano said the immigration system is out of date and badly in need of reform. She argued for a mandatory electronic employee verification system. She also supported stronger employer sanctions and an improved legal immigration system.

The sticking point for several lawmakers is whether to allow a pathway to citizenship.

Jose Antonio Vargas also testified at the hearing. He’s an activist who has written extensively about his plight as an undocumented immigrant.

"I feel as if we’ve been having the exact same conversation on immigration for the past decade, as if immigration is all about border security," Vargas said. "I came here from the Philippines, my border is the Pacific Ocean."

Steve Case, who co-founded AOL, told the committee when we talk about immigration we can’t ignore our economy. He says half of technology companies are started by immigrants and 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies have been started by first- and second-generation immigrants.

"This is really about the future of the country and how do we seize this opportunity to remain the world’s most entrepreneurial nation," Case said.

President Barack Obama urged Congress in his State of the Union address Tuesday to come up with a bipartisan bill for him to sign within the next few months.

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