Two former Republican secretaries of Homeland Security joined current Secretary Janet Napolitano in calling for comprehensive immigration reform during a Politico Breakfast event on Monday morning and defended the Obama administration’s recent release of thousands of undocumented immigrants from detention. Last week, conservatives characterized the release of nonviolent immigrants ahead of the looming budget cuts that went into effect on Friday, as an effort to “politicize” the cuts or exert retribution against states like Arizona.
Speaking alongside former Secretaries Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff at an event to mark the Department’s anniversary, Napolitano explained that the majority of the releases were the result of the normal “ebb and flow” of moving individuals in and out of detention. “Several hundred are related to sequester but it wasn’t thousands,” she said, adding that more immigrants will be released as budget cuts are implemented.
Napolitano’s predecessors, agreed, noting that the department is currently hamstrung by a broken immigration system and the chaotic budgetary environment. “The job of the Secretary of Homeland Security with regard to securing the borders would be a heck of a lot easier if the United States Congress would forget about partisanship and come up with a comprehensive immigration plan,” Ridge said, eliciting applause from the audience. Watch it:
Chertoff, who had spearheaded a failed effort to reform the immigration system at the end of President George W. Bush’s second term, argued that lawmakers who support immigration reform must “move quickly” to prevent the opposition from organizing against the effort. He stressed that proponents should highlight the enhanced security on the border and note that reform will only improve the situation.
“Now, I’m not going to tell you that we have a perfectly secure border or that you could have one, but if you look at a series of different metrics over a period of 10 years there has been a steady improvement in terms of operational security of the border and in terms of the net inflow and outflow,” he said. “And we’ve invested an awful lot in that. But never to acknowledge progress is really self defeating.”