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Old 09-16-09, 07:10 PM   #1
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Post Napolitano says border security progress seen (AP)

AP - U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says the U.S. and Mexico are making headway in curbing the flow of illegal drugs and cash across their shared border.

Napolitano, who spoke at a public policy conference at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, said "historic" agreements with Mexican President Felipe Calderon's government and increases in enforcement are helping with security issues in the U.S., and curbing the flow of drugs into the U.S. and weapons and cash into Mexico.

"We stand at a historic moment," she said. "We have the opportunity to work with the government of Mexico to make significant advancements in the safety and security of the border area and the safety and security of Mexico in the very courageous battle President Calderon is fighting there."

Calderon launched a nationwide offensive against violent and powerful drug cartels shortly after taking office in 2006. Since then, more than 13,000 people have been killed. In Ciudad Juarez, just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, federal police and Mexican troops have been deployed to curb the near-daily killings.

Napolitano said successes are coming slowly but steadily, and can't fully be measured by the number of arrests made or the amount of cash and weapons seized. "It will be a marathon, but progress is being made, again because of the historic relationship we have," she said.

During her 45-minute speech, Napolitano highlighted a series of border initiatives her department has announced since she was sworn in earlier this year, including increased numbers of federal agents working at the border and the creation of routine southbound checkpoints at U.S. ports of entry. She also reiterated a commitment to work with local and state authorities and overhaul immigration detention facilities and policies.

"Historically in the 1980s and '90s, issues involving the border ... drug trafficking, immigration, were viewed as strictly federal issues," Napolitano said. But she said her department has seen the impact on local and state agencies and has "put a premium" on partnering with them.

The secretary also briefly discussed the need for comprehensive immigration reform. She said once health care reform is passed, President Barack Obama's administration will focus on immigration as a top priority.

"I'm not going to give you a timeline," Napolitano said of potential legislation. "But there's a whole lot of work going on behind the scenes."

She said any reform would include enforcement and visa reform, and deal with the millions of illegal immigrants already in the U.S.

"It will mirror the fact that we are a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants," Napolitano said.


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