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Napolitano tells sheriffs group that border security is a priority

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told the National Sheriffs Association Thursday that programs such as Operation Stonegate and Secure Communities had helped state and local law enforcement officials push illegal immigration down to historic low levels. (Cronkite News Service photo by Victoria Pelham)

WASHINGTON – Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano defended the government’s decision to funnel most of a federal border-security grant program to the southern border, telling a national sheriffs group Thursday that the government is “very serious” about stopping illegal traffic.

“We put it (funding) where we adjudicated that we needed it the most, and we’re all about setting priorities,” Napolitano said of the nearly $200 million spent since fiscal 2005 under Operation Stonegarden.

Napolitano, speaking to a National Sheriffs Association conference in Washington, said the government has made “amazing progress” in driving down illegal immigration. People crossing the Southwest border illegally fell 73 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to a report last summer by the Center for American Progress.

But several Arizona sheriffs who were in Washington for the conference said there are still improvements to be made in the federal programs.

Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever said Operation Stonegarden was a great idea to begin with, but it now feels as if the federal program is trying to turn local officials into “de facto Border Patrol agents.”

“As a sheriff, I’m not going to work for the federal government,” Dever said. “We’re not going to be wards to their stewardship in any way, shape or form.”

Greenlee County Sheriff Steve Tucker said his department was not able to use as much of the money as it would have liked, because of all the federal strings that come with it.

“We received Stonegarden money, but I have to tell you that it’s so complicated in how we use it and how we deploy our personnel with it that it’s pretty difficult for us to use it,” he said.

Operation Stonegarden, which is administered through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is intended to help local police departments with border security costs and to increase cooperation between state and federal agencies at the border.

Napolitano also touted the Secure Communities program, which she said has led to the deportation of large numbers of convicted criminals who were found to be in the country illegally. She reiterated that deporting such criminals is an administration priority.

Secure Communities, which began in 2008, requires that anyone booked in a local jail have their fingerprints run through federal databases to determine the suspect’s immigration status.

Some counties have criticized the program and resisted its implementation, but Napolitano said her department is working with those counties and continuing to improve the program.

All counties on the Southwest border have implemented Secure Communities, she said.

“It’s a huge undertaking, as you might well imagine,” Napolitano said of Secure Communities. “But it’s the right thing to do if what we want to accomplish is to make sure that, if we can’t remove everybody from the country, we can at least remove those who’ve committed crimes and endangered the public safety.”

Because of the drop in illegal immigration, border agents are better able to focus on seizing drugs and stopping border crime, she said.

“It’s going to keep getting better,” Napolitano told the sheriffs.

But Dever said that although progress had been made along the border, it’s still not under control and more needs to be done.

“They’ve been prioritizing criminal aliens … which is a good thing, but you can’t do that to exclusion,” Dever said. “We’re a long way from solving the problem.”

8 comments

  1. Don’t Trust a Thing that comes from Nappy’s lying mouth…!!!–cuz on the 1 hand her boss & thug obummer, & DOJ are Sueing states which Try to ENFORCE current Fed’l immigration laws AND also freeing in huge numbers ILLEGALS that have been caught in other parts of the country…Catch & Release is Supposed to pertain to Fishing NOT the Wasting of MY Tax $$’s in relation to Immigration ENFORCEMENT…NoObama 2012!!!

  2. From the article: People crossing the Southwest border illegally fell 73 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to a report last summer by the Center for American Progress.

    That statement is laughable. Especially knowing it was reported by the far-left Center for American Progress. It’s an insulting comment to anyone living in a border state.

  3. Brittanicus/ Dave Francis

    To stop President Obama and his Liberal progressive Czars as Eric Holder, the only avenue is to elect strict TEA PARTY Constitutionalists in oncoming federal and state elections. There are two points to remember that entering the United States has been intentionally classed by Congress as a civil matter? That it is not classified as a Felony; as it should be? Although being hired for a job or using a stolen ID or another person’s Social Security card can be prosecuted as a felony, as they have committed two crimes. The Tea Party will rescind any covert amnesties, sanctuary city ordinances, chain migration, dream act, build the 2006 Secure Fences and additionally overhaul federal spending. Become acquainted NumbersUSA and learn about the billions of dollars taken from taxpayers in unfunded mandates by pandering to illegal aliens. This is labeled as a “Backdoor Amnesty.” Washington must enact ‘The Legal Workforce Act ‘Known more commonly as Mandated E-Verify. Plus “The Birthright Citizenship Act” to stop the inducement of bring unborn infants into the country, that provides free welfare, education and health care. WE THE PEOPLE’S Constitution is under siege by the resident government and must be stopped, when they are allowing illegal aliens back on the streets. BE WARNED THAT NON-CITIZENS HAVE BEEN VOTING AND CERTAINLY WILL AGAIN IN FUTURE ELECTIONS. Every voter should possess official picture ID to vote?

  4. If the KING OBAMA administration were serious about stopping illegal immigration, they’d be enforcing the laws, implementing E-Verify nationwide and ending Sanctuary Cities. The best way to discourage illegal immigration is to enforce the laws but the truth is that KING OBAMA supports lawlessness and as such, supports, protects and encourages illegal immigration.

    VOTE REPUBLICAN NOV. 2012

  5. For anyone who believes Janet Incompetano’s lie about a 73% drop in illegal immigration, I have a global warming hosx to sell you!

  6. For Napo-La Raza-tano to utilize a Center for American Progress (a George Soros funded propaganda org.) study to report a downshift in illegal immigration is horse-pucky! She’s so full of it, her eyes are turning brown. There has never been a more deceitful and incompetent head of Homeland Security since the establishment of that office. Between her, John Morton (head of ICE), and Eric Holder, it’s hard to say which of them is more unqualified to hold their respective positions in office.

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