(CNSNews.com) - Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Friday that "given the statistical framework," the U.S.-Mexico border is not “overrun or out of control” -- adding that those who make such claims are just trying to score political points.
"But I think the amount of resources we’ve put at the border with Mexico shows how serious this administration is,” Napolitano said in a speech at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
Just two days before Napolitano made the statements, Richard Stana, director of homeland security and justice issues for the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office--the federal auditing agency that investigates the effectiveness and efficiency of other government agencies--testified in the Senate Homeland Security Committee that the Border Patrol can stop or prevent illegal entries into the United States along only 129 miles of the 1,954-mile long U.S.-Mexico border.
Napolitiano, by contrast, insisted that President Barack Obama’s border security efforts are working, that the “border is open for business" and that “misperceptions” that the border area is unsafe are making border communities unattractive to business.
Drug cartels in Mexico and the potential spillover of violence into the United States “remains a continuing challenge and a continuing concern” for America, said Napolitano, who made her remarks at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., just a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol.
“I’m not here to run a victory lap about the numbers because while the numbers are significantly better--and it’s time for the American people to understand that the investments we have been making along the border are producing significant and tangible results--we have to continue to make those investments and we have to continue to sustain those efforts,” said Napolitano. “But I think the amount of resources we’ve put at the border with Mexico shows how serious this administration is.”
“So, given the deployment of resources, given the statistical framework, it is simply inaccurate to state--as too many have--that the border with Mexico is overrun or out of control,” she said. “This statement--I think sometimes is made to score some political points you know--but it’s wrong. It’s just plain wrong.”
Continuing to make such “assertions in the face of everything that’s happening and everything that’s been done” has a negative consequence on the U.S. side of the border, she said, and “also disrespects the significant efforts of the law enforcement men and women” who work every day to ensure that “we do have a safe and secure border region” and “we keep it that way.”
The negative allegations about border security are driving business away from border cities, said Napolitano.
“The reality is that many of our country’s safest communities are actually at the border,” she said. “And violent crime rates in border communities have remained flat or have actually fallen in the past few years.”
“We have seen improvement in all statistical areas when it comes to border enforcement,” she continued, “but the misperceptions that are out there -- and it’s a lot easier to say the negative than the positive -- but those misperceptions are hurting, they’re hurting cities like San Diego and El Paso, they’re hurting communities like Nogales, Arizona, who live on, work in, and need jobs in communities along this side of the border.”
Mayors in those areas “have actually joined together to say, ‘look, enough is enough,’” she said. “Damaging misinformation about border communities has been repeated so often that it almost becomes a given in American life. Everybody says, ‘Oh, the border is out of control, it doesn’t work, it’s not safe, it’s not secure,’ and that means for them they can’t recruit businesses there, it means the colleges can’t recruit students there.”
Despite the “big challenges” that remain on the border, it is “important” to note that “the border is open for business as well,” said Napolitano.
She said the border security efforts under President Obama “taken as a whole” represent “the biggest surge of manpower and technology to the southwest border ever, and also represents the most serious and sustained action to secure that border in our nation’s history and every key metric shows that that approach is working.”
Napolitano mentioned that Border Patrol apprehensions have decreased by at least 36 percent in the last two years.
“Seizures of contraband are up in all categories, illegal drugs, illegal bulk case, illegal weapons, all substantially up,” she said. “As I said before, violent crime in our border communities has actually remained flat or actually fallen.”
As far as enforcement of immigration laws, the secretary said the administration has prioritized going after individuals who are in the country illegally and have committed other crimes and added that half of the illegal immigrants removed from the country in the last two years fit that category.
Regarding worksite enforcement, she said the Obama administration, rather than conducting raids, is now going after the employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants and exploit those workers by paying them below minimum wage.
The event at the Newseum where Napolitano spoke was sponsored by the New Democrat Network, a D.C.-based think tank.