President-elect Barack Obama's choice to head the Department of Homeland Security says fixing U.S. immigration policy should be a top priority. Janet Napolitano, the governor of the southwestern state of Arizona made the comment during a Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday.
Napolitano breezed through questioning from the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Thursday, emphasizing her experience as a state attorney general and governor.
She was introduced to the committee by Republican Senator John McCain, who ran unsuccessfully against President-elect Obama.
McCain commended Mr. Obama for choosing Napolitano, who he said would provide a unique prospective as the Department of Homeland Security works with Congress on immigration reform. He cited her previous remarks as governor of Arizona - a state that borders Mexico.
"She said, unlike many in Washington, 'I've actually flown by helicopter and even ridden a horse over much of the border's rugged desert and mountainous terrain'. She went on to say, 'I've toured the drug tunnels where cocaine and marijuana enter our country by the ton. I've seen the sewers where children crossing the border alone sleep at night'," he said.
In her testimony before the Senate committee, Napolitano said that as governor of Arizona for the past six years she has lived at the nexus of the immigration issue. And she said she has dealt with every aspect of immigration since 1993.
"I know that border very well and the challenges presented there. I look forward to getting to know the northern border as well as I know the southwestern border because it is different," she said.
The Senate committee also questioned the governor about terrorism prevention and natural disaster response. Napolitano said that if her nomination is confirmed by the Senate, her first goal as secretary will be to create a unified vision for the department.