Janet Napolitano, President Obama's head of Homeland Security, has made a shift in Immigration policy. While Border Patrol Agents are still assigned to stopping drugs and illegal immigrants from entering the United States, hundreds of additional agents are being redeployed to stop the weapons and cash that flow into Mexico.
In a speech before the newest agents arriving in Laredo, TX, Napolitano said, “You know, early this week I met with President Obama, and this morning I met with President Calderón of Mexico, and you guys are at the cutting edge of something new we’re trying to do to make the border safer.”
Ms. Napolitano’s initiative to send an additional 360 agents to the 2,000-mile border with Mexico, announced two weeks ago, is intended not only to respond to growing concerns about national security, she said, but also to change the way Americans view the threat.
“We understand that this port needs to move, that time is money, especially when it comes to trade,” said Ms. Napolitano, standing in the shadow of a line of tractor-trailers that extended as far as the eye could see. “But from now on, when trucks come into this port, they are going to see something they haven’t seen before, and that’s southbound inspections.”
Ms. Napolitano rarely uses the word terrorism, and she has said she does not intend to practice the “politics of fear.” She has said her agency will devote as much attention to preparing for natural disasters as for “man-caused disasters,” her euphemistic term for terrorism. She made public her disapproval of an immigration raid of a mechanics shop in Washington State, freed the immigrants who had been detained, and gave them work permits. Her actions sent a signal that future enforcement would focus on employers who rely on illegal immigrants, rather than on the workers.
While on the border, Ms. Napolitano has essentially turned previous policies upside-down, warning Americans that what leaves the country is as much a risk to their security as what comes in.
Ms. Napolitano has begun making changes at Homeland Security and revealed how some of her own views have shifted since she took her new job. Ms. Napolitano was once a leading opponent of the Bush administration’s decision to build some 600 miles of fencing along the border. In an interview, she said she had come to see that the fence has “helped us get operational control of some areas.” As governor, she was among the first to call for the deployment of the National Guard to help stop smuggling. Now, she said, “minds were open” to a request for troops from Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, a Republican. But she said she wanted Mr. Perry to explain how the troops would be used.
During her visit in Laredo, Ms. Napolitano learned that the heightened border security southbound into Mexico might already be yielding results. A few hours before her arrival, the authorities conducting southbound inspections stopped an American couple and a 5-year-old child in a car carrying 10 grenades, nearly $122,000 in cash, a barrel for a sniper rifle and a cache of high-caliber ammunition, officials said.
The man told the authorities that he was a former Marine and that he had obtained the weapons from a military friend linked to drug smugglers in Michigan, officials said. Climbing aboard her airplane to return to Washington, Ms. Napolitano boasted, “We said we were going to do this, and we’re doing it.”
A Shift to Make the Border Safe, From the Inside Out