Entries in Janet Napolitano (10)


Janet Napolitano: Border Is Less Secure Because of Budget Cuts

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says that, although safety is her top priority, there is no way around cutting back on border patrol agents monitoring the country's borders because of the across-the-board spending cuts, known as "the sequester," that went into effect over the weekend.

"The number of border patrol hours that will need to be reduced equates to the equivalent of 5,000 border patrol agents, so we have fewer border patrol agents between the ports of entry," Napolitano told ABC's senior national correspondent Jim Avila in an exclusive interview.  "We're going to do everything we can to minimize that impact on our nation's security, but that's just the plain fact of it."

When asked about the Department of Homeland Security's controversial decision to begin releasing illegal immigrants from jails across the country last week in preparation for sequestration, Napolitano said she was not involved in making the decision.

"The decision was made by the people who operate this program that certain low level detainees could be put in an alternative to detention.  They're not released.  Some are wearing ankle bracelets.  Some have to report repeatedly into an office and the like," she said, going on to add that she would have preferred the changes to have been made more gradually.

Despite the secretary's concern about the impact of sequestration on border security, she said the country's border with Mexico has never been stronger and said the time for comprehensive immigration reform is now.

"We need to bring the 10 million to 11 million who are here out of the shadows so that, we know who they are, we have their biometrics, and we're better able to then focus on narco-traffickers, and human smugglers, and transnational criminal operations, the big law enforcement needs that we have," said Napolitano.

She said there also needs to be a system for employers to verify the legal status of their employees, to cut back on the demand for illegal immigrant labor among businesses. 

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano Regrets Timing of Immigrant Release

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano had no part in a decision by underlings to release low-risk illegal immigrant detainees as a way to save money before the sequestration, and was surprised to learn about it, Napolitano told ABC News in an exclusive interview.

"Detainee populations and how that is managed back and forth is really handled by career officials in the field," Napolitano said.

Napolitano added that the release, which has been criticized by congressional Republicans, was poorly timed.

"Do I wish that this all hadn't been done all of a sudden and so that people weren't surprised by it? Of course," she said.

When asked why the detainees were in jail in the first place, Napolitano replied, "That's a good question. I've asked the same question we're looking into it."

With the sequestration deadline looming over the country Thursday, ABC News asked Napolitano if Americans should feel safe waking up in the morning. She said sequestration will have an effect on border security and safety.

"We are always going to put safety first, and that's why we're not going to be abbreviating our safety procedures or any of that," Napolitano said. "But, by way of example, the number of Border Patrol hours that will need to be reduced equates to the equivalent of 5,000 Border Patrol agents."

The cut, she said, would mean "the large narco traffickers, human smugglers," and other bad players could have easier access to the U.S.

"We deal with a lot of bad actors and we will have fewer agents to do that with," she said. "We'll have fewer hours that the Coast Guard is going to be patrolling along our maritime shores."

The secretary stressed that the department will keep safety first but the effects of the sequester are not to be taken lightly.

"Sequestration is a pretty tough nut," she said.

And, she insisted, it is not crying wolf to warn citizens they will see longer TSA lines at the airport and longer lines at the border.

"I think a citizen is going to notice. If there's citizens that are trying to go back and forth to Mexico and Canada, to the land ports of entry, where we already have some problems with long lines at very busy times, you're going to see those lines really grow," she said.

This wait increase will also apply to those coming through international airports and needing to go through customs.

"Those lines are going to grow significantly at some of the larger airports," she said. "We're going to have fewer people to do the checks we do. The checks are going to have to be the same. We do those for security reasons. But we're going to, over time, have fewer people to do them."

And while the effects won't be seen the first Saturday following sequestration, the impact could be felt as early as the following week and should be seen as more of an inconvenience than a security concern.

"From this department's standpoint, the longer lines at the ports, the reduction of Border Patrol hours and Coast Guard operations, those are the things that will be most visible," she said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Homeland Security Chief Warns of Sequester Fallout

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The sequester will affect the nation's ability to defend itself from threats at the nation's borders, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano claimed on Monday.

Napolitano, the latest member of President Obama's Cabinet to warn of the looming automatic spending cuts, said at a press briefing that as many as 5,000 border control agents might have to be furloughed.

A situation like that, she cautioned, could mean an influx of illegal immigrants in addition to putting border security at peril.  Last week, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Department said that $754 million would be lopped from its budget if the sequester goes through.

What's more, if border security in the southwest is compromised, Republicans would likely be more reluctant to go along with comprehensive immigration reform.

In addition, Napolitano said that ports would be affected by the sequester, hampering customs inspections that would result in longer waiting times for travelers and shipments.

Meanwhile, disaster relief funding, which falls under Napolitano's agency, is looking at a $1 billion shortfall that might cut funding for victims of catastrophes such as last fall's Hurricane Sandy.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Jindal to Obama: ‘Stop Scaring the American People’

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Gov. Bobby Jindal barely had time to finish dessert in the State Dining Room before he came to cameras on the North Drive of the White House to accuse his lunch host of fear-mongering about impending spending cuts.

“He’s trying to scare the American people. He’s trying to distort the impact,” Jindal said. “The president needs to stop campaigning. Stop trying to scare the American people.”

The Louisiana Republican delivered his criticism of President Obama just steps away from the Oval Office following a lunch hosted by the president for governors of all 50 states. He used the opportunity to talk about the looming across-the-board spending cuts scheduled to go into effect on Friday.

“To me that’s a lack of leadership — for him to send out his cabinet secretaries to warn about all kinds of devastating consequences when we’re talking about a federal budget that will still be larger than last year’s budget,” Jindal said.

While Jindal was speaking, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was about 50 feet away talking to reporters in the White House briefing room — warning that the spending cuts could make America less secure.

“I’m not here to scare people,” Napolitano said when asked about Jindal’s comments. “If people are scared, it’s because the full impact of this is finally being made evident. And so people now are saying, oh my gosh, what do I need to do?”

Napolitano said the cut — which she said would force her to trim the Homeland Security budget by about 5 percent — would force dramatic cuts across the department, including reductions in the number of border security and TSA agents.

In advance of the president’s meeting with the governors, the White House prepared a state-by-state list of how the spending cuts will have a negative impact on education, health and security.

The list of things to happen to Louisiana includes some very specific numbers: approximately 1,730 fewer children receiving vaccines, 400 fewer victims of domestic violence receiving help, 1,400 children thrown out of Head Start and Early Start, and 600 disadvantaged children losing access to child care.

“There’s no reason to be threatening people’s access to vaccines or health care services. What’s next? Is he going to threaten to open the federal prisons? This is ridiculous. This is just a political campaign and he needs to stop the campaigning,” Jindal told ABC News. “The president needs to show leadership and tell Congress how he can cut $85 billion without cutting these critical services.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


FEMA Funding: Napolitano Warns Against ‘Political Gridlock’

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Could federal disaster relief become the next battleground over the federal deficit?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said over the weekend that because of the string of natural disasters in the past year, its disaster relief fund had dwindled to about $900 million.  The agency said it might have to restrict recovery spending for other, recent natural disasters if Congress did not approve additional funds — a stark warning after the estimated multibillion dollars in damage caused by Hurricane Irene.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Tuesday urged Congress to avoid “political gridlock” and move quickly to approve more federal disaster funding in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

Political gridlock “should not be the first concern of the Congress,” Napolitano said. “I think the first concern of the Congress is what do we need to protect the health and safety of the people that we’re all privileged to represent. Congress knows that this is historically the way disaster relief has been funded.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said Republicans would approve more disaster relief only if spending cuts were made elsewhere in the federal budget to make up the difference. Napolitano and others fear that disaster relief could become the latest political football in the emotionally-charged debate over the federal deficit.

“At the beginning of the fiscal year, they don’t give you a crystal ball,” Napolitano told reporters Tuesday. “So the way they do the [Disaster Relief Fund] is they get the three-year rolling average. And then if you need more, then at the end of the year there’s a supplemental” bill passed by Congress and money is held up until more funding is provided.  She said Congress should continue to play by the established rules.

While calling for more funding, Napolitano said it was too early to tell just how much Hurricane Irene was going to cost.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


NJ Gov. Christie Praises Federal Aid in Hurricane Response 

ABC News(TRENTON, N.J.) -- New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said his state is facing record flooding and power outages after Hurricane Irene barreled across the Northeast Sunday morning, but successful evacuations and federal help have reduced potential loss of life in the storm.

"Early reports are very difficult," Christie told ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper, after the storm came ashore in New Jersey after 6 a.m. "We have over half-a-million people that are now without power. We have 15,000 people in 45 shelters across the state; 250 roads are closed; and we are going to look at a record flooding situation here, both at the shore and inland."

According to reports Saturday, some 500 seniors refused to evacuate from high rises in Atlantic City, but Christie said efforts will soon be made to ensure they have safely weathered the hurricane.

"The good news is that we evacuated over a million people from the Jersey shore in 24 hours without incident," Christie said. "And if those people had stayed at the Jersey shore, I think we'd be talking about significant loss of life. And now, hopefully, we're not going to be talking about that."

Christie urged residents to stay in their homes until the storm had passed over the state, warning that one woman in New Jersey had been swept away in flood waters after getting out of her car in high waters.

““”We are far from out of the woods on the storm itself," Christie warned. "So, please, stay in your homes until the storm has completely left New Jersey. Then we'll be able to get through this together in the aftermath, but I need people to stay at home."

Christie said the federal government has provided all the resources his state has needed to respond to the threat of Irene, praising FEMA as "very responsive" in preparing for the storm's move up the East Coast. He said he will call upon Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano for additional aid after the storm has passed.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


John McCain Attacks Janet Napolitano Over Immigrant 'Spotters' in Arizona

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Arizona Sen. John McCain has never been a bashful critic of the Obama administration’s border security policy. But Wednesday he unleashed an unusually spirited attack on Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, whom he accused of deliberately failing to root out dozens of mountaintop “spotters” that help Mexican smugglers sneak into his state.

“There’s between 100 and 200 spotters sitting on mountains in southern Arizona, inside the borders of the Untied States of America, spotting for drug cartels who then get the drugs up to Phoenix,” said an agitated McCain during a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing Wednesday. “We’re supposed to believe that the administration is serious about securing our borders? Well, I don’t think so.”

Napolitano strongly disputed McCain’s declaration as not factual.

“I’ve asked the Border Patrol myself, because I’ve been down there myself several times in the last few months, ‘Where are the spotters that I keep hearing about?’” she said. “And the answer that I receive is that there are a couple of hundred tops from which a spotter could act, but there are not sitting there 200 drug spotters.”

McCain didn’t back down, accusing Napolitano, a former governor of Arizona, of turning a blind eye to the impacts of illegal immigration along the border.

“Well, they are there, and everybody knows they’re there, and for you or your staff to deny that they’re there is sort of symptomatic to me of the lack of really recognition or appreciation of the problems that exist along our border,” McCain said.

“Senator, with respect,” Napolitano interjected, “there is no one who has spent more time working on this Arizona issue that I have over the past two years and we will continue -- ”

“There is no one who has spent more time on the issue that I have, Madam Secretary -- long before you were governor and you were Secretary. I am told from the law enforcement people from the sheriffs up to the U.S. attorney that there are between 100 and 200 spotters sitting on mountains in Arizona,” shot back McCain. “And for you to dispute that is a big problem you have between yourself and them. And that should be clarified --"

“Yes, let’s clarify -- ” said Napolitano.

“For you to say it’s not true, that’s fine with me. But it happens to be true, and it happens to be a huge problem, and it also happens to be that Phoenix, Arizona, in their view and other experts’ view is the distribution center for drugs around this country,” McCain said.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told ABC News the agency “identifies and documents possible scouting locations in each border zone so we can monitor them and prevent their use by spotters and scouts.”

But the official said not all of the locations identified are actively occupied by Mexican drug cartel members. 

Napolitano said Wednesday that Department of Homeland Security has deployed a “historic level” of resources to the southwest border over the past two years, leading to “significant improvements” in security by many statistical measures.

That was at least one point on which McCain agreed.

“I agree there have been improvements, and I’m grateful for the improvements,” he said.  But “I would hope that we could have some serious conversations…and see if we can’t sit down and take the necessary measures that are clearly there to ensure the citizens of our country that the border has a reasonable level of security.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Homeland Security a Bureaucratic Behemoth after Eight Years

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Eight years ago Tuesday, the George W. Bush administration completed the largest reorganization and expansion of the federal government since the Cold War with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.

The move combined 22 disparate federal agencies, from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to the U.S. Secret Service, under a new Cabinet-level office at the White House with a starting budget of $37 billion -- a 90-percent increase in homeland security spending over the year before.

But what began as a small operation, coordinated from inside the White House by first Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, has grown to a bureaucratic behemoth, with the second-largest combined workforce behind the Department of Defense and a budget of $57 billion requested for fiscal year 2012.

DHS now leads the effort to prevent and disrupt terror attacks, screen airline passengers and cargo across the country, combat the sex trafficking of children, and patrol the borders and cyberspace, among many other duties.

Officials say despite the broad range of responsibilities and steep start-up costs, the agency's work is paying off and getting more efficient every day.

"Our nation is more secure than it was two years ago, and more secure than when DHS was founded," Secretary Janet Napolitano wrote in a blog post to mark the anniversary. "Nonetheless, our work never stops."

Napolitano has heralded recent improvements in administrative efficiency, saving taxpayers close to $1 billion, and reduced reliance on outside contractors by 11 percent, or $420 million.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Napolitano Won't Seek Arizona Senate Seat

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Friday she will not leave the Obama administration to run for Senate in Arizona in 2012. Her name had been tossed into the ring by supporters who thought she could be a strong candidate to replace retiring GOP Sen. Jon Kyl.

Earlier this week Republican Congressman Jeff Flake announced his bid for the seat. Flake already has the endorsement of the Club for Growth and the Tea Party-affiliated organization, Freedom Works.

But speculation is brewing that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who is still recovering from her injuries after last month’s shooting in Tucson, might run for the seat. Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., recently said there is a "distinct possibility" Giffords will run, but it's far from certain.

Statement from Napolitano's office:

“Secretary Napolitano told senior Democratic Party leaders earlier this week that she will not seek Arizona’s open U.S. Senate seat in 2012. She cares deeply about Arizona, but the Secretary intends to continue doing the job that the President asked her to do – protecting the American people from terrorism and other threats to our country. She's focused on continuing to strengthen our counter-terrorism initiatives, border security, immigration enforcement, transportation and cyber security, and disaster preparedness."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


McCain, Napolitano Hint at Joint Benchmarks for Immigration Reform Talks

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Arizona Sen. John McCain and his Republican colleagues have long said they will only join Democrats on a comprehensive immigration reform deal if and when the Southwest border is secured.

Now McCain says he wants to develop a mutually agreeable set of benchmarks with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano for what level of security is sufficient and how to determine when that goal has been met.

“We have to agree on certain criteria on what is successful securing of our border,” McCain said Thursday during a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing. “I think it would be very helpful to all of us if you could lay out what is necessary, what assets need to be devoted and what statistics could show us that the border is being secured, and at that time I think we could move forward with comprehensive immigration reform.”

The comments signal a shift in McCain’s willingness to engage in dialogue on the issue and possibly support a reform bill in the new Congress.

McCain has been an outspoken critic of Napolitano’s border security efforts in his state, and has disputed the administration’s claims that the border overall is as secure now as it’s ever been.

But Thursday, perhaps signaling a thaw in relations, McCain said Napolitano “quite appropriately” points out the record number of resources and enforcement actions her agency has undertaken along the border, even though he believes conditions have deteriorated in part of his state.

Napolitano has previously rejected Republicans' “secure border” precondition for progress on immigration reform. But Thursday she suggested a willingness to sit down with McCain and arrive at a common vision for what a reasonably secure border would look like.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio