Transcript: Behind-the-Scenes With Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano

NAPOLITANO: I either want it fixed or I want those technology dollars going elsewhere. And I think one of my responsibilities is to be a good steward for the taxpayers' dollars. And on this one, I do not believe that the promises made to us have been kept. So we're going to keep at it.


THOMAS: You were talking to me earlier about the perception of illegal immigration and the facts. Why don't you put it in -- put that in perspective. What are the facts? The perception is it's exploding, but what are the facts?

NAPOLITANO: Well, you know, first of all, I'd put it in context, you know, as someone who has worked on border and border-related issues directly as a U.S. attorney, attorney general, governor, now in this office. So going back to '93, I have walked that border. I've walked it. I've written it on horseback. I have flown it. I've driven it. I really know that area of the country quite well. And based on that experience -- and then you look at the actual numbers, the actual numbers show that illegal immigration is at its lowest ebb, really, in recent time. Seizures of narcotics have increased. Manpower at the border is at a record high level. Technology at the border is at a record high level. So those are the facts.

Is illegal immigration or illegal drug trafficking at a zero level? Unfortunately, no. You know, you have to ask a question, what more should we be doing? What more makes sense?

Well, let's get this SBI Net thing worked out. In the meantime, we're doing a lot by way of different kinds of technology, more mobile, less expensive, more usable by our actual agents on the ground. You know, those sorts of things -- those kinds of tactical things.

The real thing that needs to happen, I have to say, is for the Congress, in a bipartisan way now, to take up the subject of immigration. You know, the president has said that he will work with them. He has been speaking with and calling Republican senators and holding out, again, opening the door, saying this is something that we need to do. We need to improve this immigration system for the 21st century.

THOMAS: But given the hyper partisan nature of Washington right now, is it possible?

NAPOLITANO: You know, I always think anything is possible. And this affects everybody. This doesn't just affect Democrats or Republicans or Independents or whatever. This affects everybody. And I actually view it now as a security issue. We need to know who's in the country. And we need to know, for those who are in the country illegally, there needs to be a period under which they are given the opportunity to register so we get their biometrics, we get their criminal history and we know who they are. They pay a fine. They learn English. They get right with the law.

And so our law enforcement efforts, at that point, can be concentrated on violent felons and on gang members andon others. And so there's a security issue here that I think people have not fully appreciated yet.

THOMAS: And you said earlier that the system right now really can't sustain it.

NAPOLITANO: Well, the system is decades old. And talk about how much has occurred in the last few decades. It's time to be updated. It's time to be reformed. It's time -- for example, some of the things we would like to do on the enforcement side, we don't have the ability to do because we don't have the statutory authority to do it.

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