Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano went before the Senate Tuesday and argued that the bipartisan immigration reform bill would strengthen national security. Washington Bureau Reporter Michael Scotto filed the following report for NY1.
WASHINGTON - Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano vigorously defended a bipartisan plan to overhaul the nation's immigration system Tuesday, saying it would beef up efforts to protect the country.
"This legislation will build on these gains, strengthening both our overall national security posture and our border security," Napolitano said.
Her defense came as some Republicans continued to tie the Boston bombings to immigration reform by questioning the asylum process that brought the suspected bombers to the U.S. about a decade ago.
On Tuesday, Democrats argued that nothing in the bill would weaken the screening process.
Napolitano claimed that the process already has a variety of safeguards.
"There are a number of times where individuals are rechecked, revetted against law enforcement, national security databases, re-interviewed," Napolitano said.
In fact, Napolitano said the reform efforts would help better track immigrants like the suspected bombers.
She admitted that her department was notified when one of the brothers traveled to Russia last year, despite the fact that his name was misspelled on his airline ticket.
"The bill will help with this because it requires that passports be electronically readable as opposed to having to being manually input," Napolitano said. "It really does a good job of getting human error, to the extent it exists, out of the process."
It's clear, though, that supporters will have to do much more to sell the bill. Republicans are also still concerned about the pathway to citizenship and border security.
"There's a principle behind this legislation 'legalize now, enforce later,'" said Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa.
Napolitano said her department is already securing the border and claimed that they would be able to achieve the security targets outlined in the bill.