Napolitano Poor on Immigration and Border Security

President-Elect Obama’s pick to be secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Arizona Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano, has received media praise for being a “centrist,” while the facts about her record as a policymaker continue to be overlooked. But don’t be fooled by the hype. Gov. Napolitano talks tough, but her record of immigration enforcement is weak. While she may sound pro-enforcement, her policies reflect a pro-amnesty agenda.

Look at her record as governor. While she spoke openly about the need to address illegal immigration, Napolitano rarely put those words into action. Immigration enforcement efforts at the Department of Homeland Security may be phased out in an Obama Administration. All it takes is a little inaction.

There are many ways to weaken enforcement, most requiring no new laws. Changes to regulations, funding cuts and limiting the scope of existing laws can all be part of an open borders effort to implement mass-amnesty. As governor, Napolitano engaged in many of these tactics while publicly criticizing Congress and the President for failing to do more on enforcement.  

In a 2007 speech to the National Press Club, she claimed that the only realistic proposal for dealing with the 11 million illegal immigrants already in the U.S. “is to create a strict, stringent pathway to citizenship.” But a pathway to citizenship is a pathway to amnesty, and the American people are firm in their opposition to this.

According to a recent poll, 61 percent of American voters oppose a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. That’s why the Senate amnesty bill was defeated last year. Napolitano supported that amnesty proposal.

The border fence is another issue on which Napolitano talks tough but presents a weak record. In the same speech before the Press Club, she opposed the border fence, our most practical line of defense, flippantly saying, “[S]how me a 50-foot wall, and I’ll show you a 51-foot ladder.” It’s a great soundbite, but the fact is that the fence does make it much harder for illegal immigrants to enter the country.

Will Senate Look Closely?

Opposing the fence because some illegal immigrants may find a way around it is like telling a family not to lock their door at night because burglars can always break in through a window.

No one claims that the fence will prevent all illegal immigrants from entering, but it is working well. According to the Border Patrol, illegal crossings in Yuma, Ariz., and Santa Teresa, N. M., have decreased by over 70 percent as result of the fence. And in San Diego, the Border Patrol reports a 95 percent decrease in illegal immigrant apprehensions.

Napolitano’s positions on both amnesty and the border fence are on the wrong side of public opinion. A recent ABC poll that found 77 percent of respondents believe the U.S. isn’t doing enough to keep illegal immigrants from coming into the country.

At a time when over 10 million American workers are looking for jobs, but an estimated seven million jobs are held by illegal immigrants, Napolitano’s positions threaten American workers.

In a 2007 press conference, Napolitano criticized worksite enforcement efforts, calling them “unfair.” But when given the opportunity to provide employers with the tools they need to secure a legal workforce, she opposed mandating the program. It wasn’t until Arizona voters passed a ballot initiative requiring employers to use the program that Napolitano signed the measure into law.

As governor, she also vetoed a bill that would have barred Arizona and local agencies from accepting IDs issued by the Mexican Consulate — IDs that are used almost exclusively by illegal immigrants to help them stay in the country.

After opposing initiatives that would ensure a legal work force, Napolitano suggested we “institute tamper-proof immigration documents to quell the fraudulent ID markets.” But when Congress passed the REAL ID Act — creating a uniform standard for identification cards to help with the detection of fraudulent documents — Napolitano refused to allow Arizona to comply with the law.

Time and again, Napolitano has opposed policies that would reduce illegal immigration. As secretary of Homeland Security, Napolitano will have the authority to ensure that the federal government enforces immigration laws. But it will take more than tough talk to reduce illegal immigration. I hope the Senate will take a careful look at the governor’s record on immigration enforcement during the confirmation process next year.