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Updated Apr 5, 2013 - 5:13 pm

Napolitano says Obama committed to border security

PHOENIX — The Obama administration is committed to making sure the entire
Southwest region along the U.S.-Mexico border is secure, while also allowing for
the ease of travel and trade, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said
Friday during a visit to Arizona.

Napolitano was joined by Gil Kerlikowske, director of National Drug Control
Policy, on the trip to inspect border operations in the Tucson area, meet with
stakeholders and highlight progress made toward stemming the flow of illegal

The Arizona stop comes a day after Napolitano swung through Texas to highlight
how the new congressional budget should ease the need to furlough or cut
overtime hours for border agents. Napolitano said after meeting with Houston law
enforcement officials and business leaders the agency still is reviewing the
numbers but it appears security will “get back to where we were before

Her tour of the Southwest comes as Congress aims to tackle immigration reform
this month, and the debate swirls around whether anything meaningful can occur
before consensus is reached on defining exactly what securing the border means.

“At DHS, we are committed to making sure that the entire Southwest border is
secure while expediting legal travel and trade,” Napolitano said Friday.

“Over the past four years, this Administration has dedicated historic levels
of personnel, technology, and resources to the Southwest border, and undertaken
an unprecedented effort to transform our nation’s immigration enforcement
systems into one that focuses on public safety, border security, and the
integrity of the immigration system.”

There’s no doubt progress has been made over the past 20 years, something that
can be highlighted in numbers alone. Where border agents made some 530,000
arrests in San Diego in fiscal year 1993, for example, they had fewer than 30,0
in 2012.

“Secure the border first” has become the popular mantra as some say it’s as
secure as it has ever been, and likely will ever be, with key border cities
seeing crime rates fall. Others, however, say it’s still not safe and that
illegal activity has simply been pushed further out into the rural areas.

Napolitano and Kerlikowske noted significant progress has been made at ports of
entry and all along the border from California to Texas.

They explained how the Department of Homeland Security has seized 39 percent
more drugs, 71 percent more money, and 189 percent more weapons along the
Southwest border between 2009 and 2012 as compared to fiscal years 2005-2008.

The pair also pointed out how the Department of Homeland Security has increased
the number of personnel in the region from about 9,800 Border Patrol agents in
2001 to more than 21,000 today, increasing the use of drones and adding even
more fencing along the border in key trafficking areas.


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