By SCOTT WONG | 2/10/11 5:06 PM EST Updated: 2/10/11 5:30 PM EST
Will congressional leaders be making a run for the border for spring break?
Amid the debate in Washington over border security, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Thursday personally invited top Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate to join her at the Mexican border this spring to see firsthand the conditions on the ground.
“To help foster a constructive dialogue, I’d like to invite a bicameral, bipartisan congressional delegation to join me at the border this spring to jointly assess the progress that has been made, discuss ongoing operations with our agents in the field and visit some vibrant border towns,” Napolitano wrote in two identical letters, obtained by POLITICO, that were addressed to House and Senate leaders.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) each received a copy.
So did House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.).
For months, Napolitano has pushed back at Republican critics who say the Obama administration hasn’t done enough to address illegal immigration and drug and human smuggling.
On Thursday, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and Attorney General Tom Horne, both Republicans, counter-sued the federal government, saying it has failed to secure the border and protect citizens against the negative effects of illegal immigration.
The Justice Department sued Arizona last year challenging the constitutionality of SB 1070, the state’s tough law cracking down on illegal immigration. The case is tied up in the federal courts.
“Our message for the federal government is simple: Use federal resources to combat the cartels that are breaking federal law,” Brewer said in a statement. “Don’t attack Arizona, which is helping to enforce federal law.”
But in her letters, Napolitano, who preceded Brewer as Arizona governor, said significant investments have been made to secure the southwest border during the past two years. That includes more Border Patrol and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, and the deployment of National Guard troops.
“These efforts have paid significant dividends,” she wrote.
Border patrol apprehensions –a key indicator for illegal immigration – are down by a third, and seizures of illegal currency, drugs and weapons are up in the past two years.
“Despite these facts, the situation on the border continues to be mischaracterized, and I am concerned that this is hurting the morale of our law enforcement personnel and the local economies of border towns,” Napolitano wrote. “To be sure, challenges remain, and it is my hope that we can work together on a nonpartisan basis to address remaining challenges.”
Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0211/49270.html#ixzz1DbLwpU9Q
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