Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Thursday that she was optimistic that a bipartisan immigration-policy overhaul would, at some point, get through Congress.
"This is not a new issue," she said in a meeting with The Dallas Morning News' editorial board. "It's just putting together a comprehensive package that covers the immigration issues from A to Z. ... It's a priority for both me and the president."
Napolitano expressed hope that the effort, which has bogged down in Congress in years past, would not be as contentious as it was under former President George W. Bush.
She did not say when a bill would ultimately be considered since Congress and the White House are now consumed with health care legislation. So changes to immigration policy could be further down the road, though she has had meetings with Sen. Charles Schumer, the New York Democrat expected to take the lead on the issue.
"There is a bipartisan recognition that the current law is outdated and needs to be brought up to date with our current needs," she said.
Napolitano, the former governor of Arizona, has dealt with the effects of illegal immigration for much of her career in public service.
She said an immigration bill should focus on the following:
. Developing or bolstering the penalties for employers who repeatedly hire illegal immigrants.
. Stamping out the new tactics human traffickers and money launderers are using to exploit the border.
. Developing programs that would allow seasonal workers to legally enter the country.
. Updating the visa process to allow students with capabilities the country needs to remain in the U.S.
From the Associated Press, on rebuilding efforts along the gulf coast:
As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama pledged to right the wrongs he said bogged down efforts to rebuild the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. Seven months into the job, he's earning high praise from some unlikely places.
Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La., says Obama's team has brought a more practical and flexible approach. Many local officials offer similar reviews. Even Doug O'Dell, former President George W. Bush's recovery coordinator, says the Obama administration's "new vision" appears to be turning things around.
Not too long ago, Jindal said in a telephone interview, Louisiana governors didn't have "very many positive things" to say about the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
But Jindal said he had a lot of respect for the current FEMA chief, Craig Fugate, and his team. "There is a sense of momentum and a desire to get things done," the governor said.
Added O'Dell: "I think the results are self-evident."
The retired Marine general served what he calls a frustrating stint as Bush's recovery coordinator last year. "What people have said to me is that for whatever reason, problems that were insurmountable under previous leadership are getting resolved quickly," O'Dell said.
"And I really hate to say that because (the top FEMA leaders) in my time there were good, hardworking, earnest men, but they were also the victims of their own bureaucracy."
From the Associated Press, on the new Fire Administrator:
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano swore in Kelvin Cochran as the nation's new Fire Administrator on Thursday and emphasized to a gathering of emergency responders efforts the government is making to help struggling fire departments.
Napolitano reminded attendees at the Fire-Rescue International Conference that the federal stimulus bill provides $210 million in Assistance to Firefighter grants for fire stations.
Congress also will waive the requirement that local governments match funds when they split an additional $210 million worth of Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grants this year. That move will let fire departments rehire laid-off firefighters. The Department of Homeland Security plans to ask for double that amount for next year, Napolitano said.
"Cities and states are cash-strapped right now and we want to do things, to the extent we can, so that our emergency services continue our security planning continues unimpeded," she said after swearing in Cochran.
From Fire Rescue 1, on H1N1 preparedness:
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano admitted Thursday the swine flu vaccine is unlikely to be ready for the start of the next expected wave of the virus, and urged the fire service to be ready for outbreaks.
"In all likelihood, this flu will be back on our shores before any vaccine is available," she said.
Secretary Napolitano said shots to protect against the H1N1 virus should be available about mid-October.
During an address to Fire-Rescue International in Dallas, Secretary Napolitano said fire departments should begin planning for high rates of absenteeism, not only due to member sickness but from those having to stay at home to tend to children with the virus.
Secretary Napolitano urged departments to begin looking at leave and overtime policies. "Do it now, before we are in the midst of this next flu season," she said.
10 AM CDT
USCG Sector Lake Michigan Commander Capt. Luann Barndt and Col. Vincent Quarles, Commander of the Army Corps of Engineers' Chicago District will conduct a press briefing to discuss public safety and vessel traffic issues concerning the Aquatic Nuisance Species Dispersal barrier in Romeoville, IL.
W Edgewood Dr
Under the Romeo Road Bridge adjacent to the Citgo Lamont Refinery.