WASHINGTON (JTA) – Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told a Jewish conference that the country’s immigration system is broken.
The United States must update its visa system, institute a nationwide verification employment system and create a way for those in this country illegally to become citizens, Napolitano told some 300 people attending a three-day Jewish Council for Public Affairs Plenum in Washington.
Reform is necessary “because the system does not work the way it was intended to,” Napolitano said. “We need an overall system-wide package” that keeps borders secure, raises the number of visas offered and institutes a verification employment system that identifies who is working here while discouraging employers who offer low wages and no benefits.
The former Arizona governor said U.S. efforts to keep secure borders and intelligence up to date will suffer due to sequestration, the automatic across-the-board budget cuts that went into effect earlier this month. Last week, her department issued 60,000 furlough notices to its workers. While noting the vast majority of them will not have their hours cut, more and more will as the sequestration goes on.
Napolitano also spoke of the importance of keeping the Jewish community up to date on any possible threats to its synagogues, schools and community centers. The United States and Israel are working together on “cutting-edge security,” she said, praising the “very dynamic partnership we have with Israel.”
Prior to Napolitano’s address, Vice President Joe Biden in a video message praised the organization’s members, noting, “You are associated with everything that is fair and decent."
Also during the plenum, JCPA members voted to expand an earlier stand on gun control, calling for a comprehensive package that curtails access to some weapons and includes a waiting period before guns can be purchased, background checks, improved mental health care and criminal justice reforms.
JCPA members also approved measures to strengthen and expand current civil rights laws aimed at preventing pay discrimination.
Also at the plenum, Jewish Women International was voted in as a JCPA member.