Today, current Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Janet Napolitano, along with former DHS Secretaries Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff, participated in a panel discussion moderated by NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell to celebrate the eighth anniversary of DHS. During the conversation, Ridge made the case that those who are blocking immigration reform simply “need to get over it” and come up with a solution:
I do hope that some time in the future we do end up looking at our immigration policy generally. It’s great to talk about defense we do, enforcement we do. At the end of the day, the demographics in the United States suggests that we will need additional labor going back and forth across the border in a lawful way. [...]
At some point in time I just hope that Congress accepts the responsibility and I can say this because I was there for twelve years and voted for “amnesty” under Ronald Reagan. At some you’ve got to say to yourself, ‘We’re not sending 12 million people home. Let’s get over it…So let’s just figure out a way to legitimize their status, create a new system, and I think that will add more to border security than any number of fences we can put across the border.
Ridge also told Americans not to be “arrogant” and just assume that everyone who emigrates to the U.S. wants to become an American citizen. “A lot of them would just love to come up here, work lawfully, and go home,” stated Ridge. While that may be true for a significant portion of the undocumented population, many undocumented immigrants have built families and established roots in the country.
Ridge’s successor, Michael Chertoff, echoed Ridge’s sentiments, saying that “we’re going to have to come up with a solution that takes into account not only the need for enforcement, but to deal with the immigration system overall comprehensively.” Chertoff also noted that “most people who come across the border are not coming to do harm to the U.S., they’re coming across the border for jobs that either Americans don’t want to work or the wage isn’t attractive.”
Ridge also lamented that “sometimes there has been hyperbole associated with the language and a general feeling that if you’re a Muslim you’ve been condemned.” He warned politicians to be “careful about the language we use to describe the jihadists and extremists.”