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Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano visits Southland

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Federal Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano visited the Southland today. She toured Los Angeles International Airport and the ports of L.A. and Long Beach. KPCC's Frank Stoltze caught up with the secretary as she spoke with reporters on the Coast Guard station athletic field on Terminal Island.

Frank Stoltze: Except for the Secret Service protection, Napolitano's visit was a low-key tour of two of the busiest commercial ports of entry in the United States – and an opportunity for local representatives to impress upon the cabinet secretary the importance of federal money for security.

Janet Napolitano: Lessons learned, point taken, and now when I return to Washington I will go with a much better idea of the kinds of needs of in this area so we can even improve upon the efforts taken to date.

Stoltze: The latest of those efforts is TWIC – the Transportation Worker Identification Credential. Beginning this week, every worker at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach – including dockworkers, truck drivers, and contractors – must carry that security card to enter the terminals.

Napolitano: We think we're actually doing pretty well in terms of workers actually having their cards, but it's kind of an unknowable universe.

Stoltze: Unknowable because the ports don't keep very good track of who goes in and out. That's hard to do when the ports, shipping companies, and other contractors employ a lot of transient workers.

Of the estimated 67,000 workers, the Coast Guard estimates that 60,000 have obtained security clearance. The others will be allowed into the ports if they can prove they're in the process of obtaining a card.

Congresswoman Jane Harman, who represents the Port of Los Angeles and L.A. International Airport, accompanied Napolitano on her tour.

Jane Harman: The improvements over the last several years are huge in terms of layered security at both the ports and the airport.

Stoltze: Napolitano also addressed questions from English and Spanish-speaking reporters about immigration. She reiterated her promise to review detention policies at Immigration and Customs Enforcement – or ICE.

Napolitano: Within the organizational chart of ICE, the detention area was way at the bottom. So we've now corrected that situation because it deserves really concrete and immediate attention.

Stoltze: She did not comment on a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union that alleges inhumane conditions at an immigration lock-up in downtown Los Angeles. While Napolitano said again that she'd focus more on employers who hire undocumented workers than on workplace raids, she said the raids will continue.

Napolitano: Make no mistake – we will be doing worksite enforcement and there will be employees as well as employers who are picked up in those enforcement actions.

Stoltze: Napolitano is the first woman to head the relatively new Department of Homeland Security. Congresswoman Harman made note of this – and the fact that women head the port of L.A. and L.A. International Aiport.

Harman: If you want to get a job done right, put a woman in charge.

Stoltze: Another woman joined the secretary for her tour – Congresswoman Laura Richardson, whose district includes the Port of Long Beach.