Homeland security secretary swings through San Diego

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SAN DIEGO — Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano visited San Diego Monday to view border security operations, meet with area leaders and discuss her agency’s ongoing efforts to secure the nation’s international boundaries while facilitating lawful travel and trade.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet NapolitanoThe federal government is “committed to making sure that the entire southwest border is secure while expediting legal travel and trade,” Napolitano stated during a late-afternoon briefing.

“I heard first-hand how our joint efforts have worked to secure the border here and look forward to continued collaboration with our many state, local and tribal partners to build on the historic progress that we have made, here in San Diego and across our southwest border,” she said.

The visit came on the heels of President Barack Obama’s announcement that he will push for immigration reform to create a pathway to citizenship for people currently living in the country illegally.

In response to the administration’s plan, Republicans have insisted that they want the government to certify that the border is fully secure before any reform takes place.

While in San Diego as part of a two-day tour slated to end Tuesday in El Paso, Texas, Napolitano received an operational briefing on the maritime and land borders in California, and participated in an aerial tour of the U.S.-Mexico border and the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa ports of entry.

She also met with state and local officials, including Mayor Bob Filner, U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy, local law enforcement officials and representatives of the U.S. Coast Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection.

During that meeting, Napolitano highlighted her agency’s work with local police forces to enforce immigration laws while securing and managing the country’s borders.

Attempts to cross into the United States illegally totaled nearly 365,000 nationwide in the 2012 fiscal year, representing a nearly 50 percent decrease since 2008 and a 78 percent decrease from their peak in 2000, according to federal officials.

In 1995, the San Diego Sector alone saw more than 500,000 apprehensions, which fell to 54,246 last fiscal year — a decrease of almost 90 percent.

Additionally, from 2009 to 2012, CBP and ICE seized 71 percent more currency, 39 percent more drugs and 189 percent more weapons along the southwest border as compared to the 2005-2008 fiscal years, according to Homeland Security officials.

Last week, Obama announced principles for comprehensive immigration reform designed to build upon the progress by investing in ports of entry and by helping authorities focus on public-safety threats, thus making it more difficult for transnational criminal organizations to operate and encouraging foreigners to pursue a pathway to legal immigration.


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