Napolitano: Congress Needs to Lead on Immigration

Posted August 13, 2010 at 12:47pm

Updated: 6:15 p.m.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Friday that Congress, not the White House, needs to step up its leadership on comprehensive immigration reform in order to make it a reality.

“Only Congress can pass a bill,” Napolitano said during a briefing. “The president can advocate. He can get them to the table. … He can implore. He can provide ideas. He can agree to a framework, as he already has. He can give a major address that spells out what’s needed in a bill. But only Congress can pass a bill.”

Napolitano said reform can “absolutely” happen in the next couple of years, but that its momentum will depend on Republicans such as Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), the ranking member on the Judiciary subpanel on immigration. Graham, who so far is the only Senate Republican who has shown a willingness to take on the issue, crafted a reform blueprint with Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) in the spring.

“I have seen no sign that there’s any change in Sen. Graham’s position,” Napolitano said.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs echoed that the fate of immigration reform remains in the hands of Congress and that it can only happen in a bipartisan way.

“We will get comprehensive immigration reform when we go back to a time in which both Democrats and Republicans are willing to be leaders, and only then,” he said. “It’s not going to go through the Senate or the House or Congress and come to any president’s desk because one party has willed it to do so.”

One Senate Republican called it “an outrage” that Napolitano would put the onus on Congress to make immigration reform happen.

“The president of the United States was elected to lead, not to follow. So I respectfully suggest that this administration step up to the plate and fix our broken borders once and for all,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said.