The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Gibbs and Secretary of Homeland Security Napolitano, 8/13/2010

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

See below for clarification to a question (marked with an asterisk) posed in the briefing that required follow up.

* Following up on the question regarding support for Pakistan's efforts to address unprecedented flooding, the United States has been working with Pakistani authorities from the outset of this crisis to address the urgent needs of the Pakistani people and we are making every effort to meet Pakistani requests for assistance as they come in. The U.S. government has rushed financial assistance, life saving and life sustaining relief supplies, helicopters, rescue boats and disaster management experts to assist the Pakistani authorities.  We are also coordinating relief with the international community.

Some specific categories of assistance current as of today:  commitment of approximately $76 million in financial assistance; the evacuation by U.S. helicopters of nearly 4000 people and the delivery of 400,000 pounds of relief supplies; the delivery of more than 440,000 halal meals, 18 Zodiac rescue boats, 6 large scale water filtration units, 10 water storage bladders, 12 pre-fabricated bridges, a 25kw generator, 14,000 blankets and 1,100 rolls of plastic sheeting for temporary shelter.

For more detailed information we refer you to the State Department's Fact Sheet at:

12:10 P.M. EDT

MR. GIBBS:  Good afternoon.  Welcome to the White House.  Before we get started, I have one quick announcement.  On Sunday, August 29th, President Obama will travel to New Orleans, Louisiana, to mark the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.  The visit will include remarks by the President at Xavier University of Louisiana.  Members of the President’s Cabinet who have worked to speed recovery and restoration efforts in the region also will be in New Orleans to mark the anniversary.  We will have more on that trip obviously as it gets closer.

Next, we are joined today by Secretary Napolitano.  As you know, just a little while ago, with Secretary Napolitano, the President signed into law a border security bill that puts more agents and more equipment along the Mexican border.  And she is here to talk about that, our efforts to bolster the border region since coming into office.  And I will turn it over to the Secretary.

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  Thank you.  Well, thank you.  Good afternoon, everybody, and thank you for being here today.  I was very pleased to be with the President earlier as he signed a bill providing $600 million in additional resources to further strengthen security along the Southwest border.  We applaud Congress for acting in a bipartisan manner to take quick action on this bill.  I'd like to especially thank leaders Reid and Pelosi, and also Schumer and McCaskill. 

The legislation adds permanent resources that will continue to bolster security along the Southwest border, supporting our efforts to crack down on transnational criminal organizations, and reduce the trafficking of people, drugs, currency and weapons.

The bill is important in two respects.  First, it adds new resources to the border.  Second, it makes permanent many of the assets that this administration has surged along the border during the past 18 months. 

Now, let me pause there for a moment.  I have worked on border issues as a public servant for 17 years, starting in 1993, as United States state’s attorney in Arizona, then the attorney general of Arizona, then the governor of Arizona, continuing through today as the Secretary of Homeland Security.  What’s significant about this bill, in addition to its contents, is that it passed something with bipartisan support that gives us the resources to continue efforts that were well underway, and demonstrates that the border is not and should not be a political issue; it is a matter of national security in which we all, both parties, have a stake.

And on that score, even before the President signed this bill, the administration had already devoted more resources to the Southwest than any point in American history.  These efforts are making a difference.  And they are the reason why everything that is supposed to be going up is going up, and everything that is supposed to be going down is going down. 

Seizures are up and rose across the board last year.  Apprehensions for illegal crossings are down.  For the first time ever, we are screening 100 percent of southbound rail. Criminal alien removals are at an all-time high.  We've added more technology, manpower, and resources to the border than ever before.

This is a long-term, systematic effort to defeat the cartels and to continue to secure the border.  The administration is dedicated to that approach.  And that's why the President ordered 1,200 National Guard troops to the border, and it’s why he asked Congress for this supplemental funding.

Now, the bill.  In terms of manpower, the bill provides for 1,000 additional Border Patrol agents.  It contains $68 million for Customs and Border Protection officers at or ports of entry, facilitating legal traffic and interdicting contraband.  It enables ICE -- Immigration and Customs Enforcement -- to hire more than 200 special agents, investigators and intelligence analysts who will help combat narcotic smuggling and their associated violence.

It provides for two more unmanned aircraft systems, and has $14 million to deploy improved tactical communications technology that will improve enforcement, particularly along some of the more remote areas of the border.  It also includes $196 million for the Justice Department to surge federal law enforcement, add prosecutors, immigration judges, and support for detention and incarceration of criminal aliens in coordination with our Homeland Security enforcement efforts.  And in terms of infrastructure, it includes $6 million for two forward-operating bases to improve our border enforcement activities.

This bill is clearly another step forward on border security, on top of the significant progress that the administration has already made.  It is one of the many tools in the toolbox we have constructed along the border.

So we're very pleased with the swift passage, very pleased the President was able to sign this bill into law today. And now I’m happy to take your questions.

Q    Secretary Napolitano, when the President spoke about immigration last month, one of the points he made is that our borders are just too vast for us to be able to solve the problem only with fences and border patrols; it won’t work.  Our borders will not be secure as long as our limited resources are devoted to not only stopping gangs and potential terrorists but also the hundreds and thousands who attempt to cross each year simply to find work.  Is the administration now in any way conceding that comprehensive immigration reform is not tenable, that you can  actually fix this problem, bill by bill?

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  No, no, I would say quite the opposite.  I think the administration’s position is that this bill adds to significant border security efforts that have been underway for the past 18 months.  And the administration is very intent now in saying, look, this bill passed on a bipartisan basis.  Now let’s get Republicans to the table finally so we can address the whole issue of immigration reform.  These are not sequential items; these are things that should be done together.

Q    So in your sense, having gotten this piece through, and knowing the politics as well as the policy, that comprehensive reform is still something that could happen in the next couple years?

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO: Absolutely.  And it needs to happen. And again, I say this as someone with a lot of experience with the immigration issue and along the border.  We need a safe and secure border.  This is a 2,000-mile, roughly, expanse.  It involves a lot of legitimate and legal trade of commerce, goods, tourism, people that need to be able to go back and forth.  So the border area itself needs to be safe and secure.  But as a nation we also need immigration reform.

MR. GIBBS:  Bill, let me just add this.  I think you’ve seen the President has talked about this. As I’ve mentioned in here before, the President has worked on this in 2005, 2006, 2007, as a member of the United States Senate.  Leaders in the Senate made tough decisions and tough votes to get a bill because Democrats and Republicans worked together.  Nothing is going to happen on this issue in a comprehensive way that only involves one party or one person.  Secretary Napolitano’s home state had leaders that were willing to make tough votes, willing to roll up their sleeves and be leaders.  And the question is -- 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.

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. 

Q    Well, I guess that's my point, just to finish up on this, is that there always seemed to be strong support at some level for securing the border but not for the more difficult parts, including guest worker program and so forth.  So how does this differ from that?  You got the part that both parties can support.  Where does the rest come from?

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  Well, I think the efforts on overall immigration reform are ongoing, but the point I'm making is that you need to multitask.  You need to secure the border and have a safe and secure border area, and you need immigration reform. That's what this President has set out to do.  That's what he has asked the Department of Homeland Security to work on.  That's why he has invited Republicans and Republican leadership to the table, said, look, let’s get to the issue of immigration reform.

But at the same time, we want to make sure that the border itself and that 2,000-mile expanse is safe and secure.

Q    Just following on that, I'm wondering if you could talk a little more specifically about the President’s timetable for bringing about comprehensive immigration reform, for getting Republicans to the table.  And how much will this be contingent on the outcome of the November elections?  Are you concerned that if Republicans increase in strength then the prospects diminish?

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  Well, I think the purpose of our briefing here today is to talk about this bill, its significance, the fact that it passed in a bipartisan fashion, and very swiftly.  I mean, the President made a formal request for this supplemental funding I think in June, and we are now -- we have already begun moving resources, in addition to what we had already put at the border, to the border.

This will allow us to make some of those movements permanent.  And the addition of 1,000 more Border Patrol agents on top of the 20,000 we already have, that is significant.  Two hundred more ICE agents that we can devote to special investigations involving the cartels that use that border and its trafficking routes, that is very significant.  Unmanned aerial systems that we can add to the ones we already have, along with the fixed-wing and helicopters that we have, that allows us to have the capacity for 24/7 air coverage along this border. 

This is the most kind of systemic border security package -- when you add everything together that has happened -- that we’ve ever seen.

Q    But not to be impolite, the question was, what is the timetable for -- now that you have this bill, which is significant and clearly lays the groundwork for comprehensive immigration reform -- what’s the timetable for the next step? And how much is it contingent on the elections?

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  The President has said from the beginning that immigration reform is a priority for him.  He had reiterated that as recently as the speech at American University, which you were quoting from, and he has invited Congress to the table.  But again, as was said earlier, this is in the hands of the Congress and they will need to address this in a bipartisan way.  It can’t only be done by Democrats; the Republicans need to be willing to come to the table.  The timetable question should be addressed to them.

MR. GIBBS:  And I think, just to add one thing, nobody has suggested that I have heard that only one step needs to be taken to have comprehensive immigration reform.  This is an aspect of it.  It’s something we always mention, but there are obviously other aspects that are needed and that people are interested in doing. And the President has reached out to and has talked to Democrats and Republicans on this issue.  We just need a little support to make it happen.

Q    But if you don't get those other aspects, if you don't get comprehensive reform, is this not just then a drop in a bucket in attacking the problem?

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO: No.  And I say this again as someone who is from a border state and has governed a border state.  The border region is an important, critical area for this country.  So much trade and commerce occurs along there. People live in communities along that border region.  We want to make sure that border region is safe and secure.  We want -- and that requires a law enforcement approach that includes manpower, that includes infrastructure, that includes technology.  And that's why this bill, added to what we’ve already done, gives us the resources necessary for that kind of a system to be in place.  That makes a lot of difference for people who live in that area and for the country as a whole.

Q    Could I ask you about -- you’ve mentioned the crossings are down.  Can you talk a little bit more about that in terms of the numbers?  And to what degree do you think that is the result of the economy, that there simply aren’t the jobs here now for people to want to cross the border?  And to what degree is it because of specific measures that have been taken by this administration?

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  We can give you specific numbers, but I can tell you from my own experience that crossings are down, I have to say, 50 percent, 60 percent from even a few years ago.

Q    Some people believe that almost all of that is because of the economy.

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  I think it is fair to say that the economy has something to do with it, but it is also fair to say that the additional law enforcement resources at the border also have something to do with it.

And there’s a third factor, I think, that should be taken into account, and that is we have undertaken really an unprecedented partnership with Mexican law enforcement, with the Calderón administration, with law enforcement on the Southern side of the border, and that also is having an effect.

Q    To follow on that, can you quantify what this extra money and resources is going to mean in terms of percentages of all the things that you’re trying to curtail?

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  I don't understand --

Q    You said you were trying to limit the activity of drug cartels, of narco-trafficking, of human trafficking -- $600 million, 1,200 National Guard troops -- how much of an effect is that going to have?  Can you quantify it in terms of numbers and percentages?

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  It’s always difficult to quantify a negative, how much have you prevented from occurring.  But what we can give you are exact numbers on how much crossings have gone down and how much seizures have gone up, and that will give you some of the matrix.

Q    But now you’re adding more resources.  So I guess the question is -- critics might say, well, you’re throwing this in, you’re doing this for political show in order to lay the groundwork for November, in order to lay the groundwork or the predicate for pursuing comprehensive reform at some point in the future. What effect is this actually going to have?  And that's the genesis of the question I’m asking.

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  I think you will see crossings continue to go down, and I think you will continue to see seizures going up.  I don't know if I can give you an exact number.

Q    At an increased rate because of all the --

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  When the resources are in place, I think you will see that.  And I think you will see crime rates along the border keep -- either remain stable or keep going down, so that communities along the border are safer because of this money.  So there are all kinds of ways you could look at it, but I would look at all of those factors.

Q    To follow up on the earlier questions about the timing of comprehensive reform.  So is it safe to say now that the policy pieces are in place -- I know you say it’s not sequential -- but the policy pieces are being put in place, and now it’s simply a political problem to get reform through Congress?

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  I think it is fair to say that it is time for immigration reform; that the administration is ready to invite the Congress to get at it.  But again, as Gibbs just said, it can't be just one party; the Republican leadership now needs to come to the table.

Q    As you know, Republicans here in Washington and in the region say that while this is -- while 1,200 National Guard troops is helpful and while this money is helpful, it’s not enough.  It’s nowhere near enough.  Do you agree that more is needed, or do you think that we really have the resources you need at this point to do the job?

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  I think this bill matches very well with what the President asked for in June.  It augments what we had already been surging down the border, beginning in March of ’09.  I mean, I think people perhaps didn’t recognize the fact that since March of ’09 we have been moving resources to the Southwest border.

This allows us to make some of those resources permanent, not temporary.  So I believe that we have designed what needs to happen at this border, we have a good idea what it takes to keep this border safe and secure, and that these monies will allow us to do that.  And again, it shows when the Congress acts in a bipartisan fashion, even on a complicated issue -- and border security is a complicated issue; other issues they’ve addressed in a bipartisan fashion are complicated -- when they do it things can move rather swiftly.

Q    I'm sorry, I didn’t understand for sure how you're responding to my specific question. Do you think this is enough, or is more needed to do the job that you think needs to be done?

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  I think this is what we asked for, and of course, what we asked for is what we thought would be enough.

Q    Do you know how long it takes for 1,500 more agents to be hired and trained and get on the job?

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  Yes, the average time for a Border Patrol agent to go from hiring to training to be boots on the ground is eight months.

Q    Eight months?


Q    And once you get all of these in place, you feel you have kind of a long-term now stabilization on the numbers there. Is the gap widening between the border security and then the more political issue on the other side of what to do with the illegal aliens who are in the United States now?  Isn’t that a problem that now is even farther -- especially with the lawsuits that are out there -- is that becoming farther and farther from a possibility, not only this year but next?

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  Well, again, that goes to the issue of underlying immigration reform with those already in the country.  But we have set pretty clear priorities for ICE about who they should focus on from a law enforcement perspective, just like any prosecution office would.  And we have directed, and the assistant secretary has directed, that we focus on criminal aliens -- and record numbers are being removed from our country of criminal aliens; that we focus on gang members; that we focus on felony fugitives.  And when you look at the numbers, the numbers show that ICE has made significant strides in that regard and, really, record numbers are being removed.

Q    Thank you, Robert.  Madam Secretary, as far as this bill President signed this morning, it’s supported by the Indian Americans and companies doing business in India.  But there is a red alert in India now from some companies doing business in India in the part of the bill, which is that this bill will be paid by those H1B visa holders who will be entering the U.S., but they have not entered yet, but it will be paid by them.  And also that this bill might impact the U.S.-India relations, and what many companies are saying this bill should be paid by those who are illegal in this country but not those people doing business in India.

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  Well, I think the method of payment, which is an increased visa charge for certain business-related
businesses -- business-related visas -- makes a lot of sense, because what it’s saying is that we’re going to make sure that we pay for immigration in this part of it, that we pay for it out of the visa system.  And that way it doesn’t come out of the general fund, which is necessary for so many other things.  And so the Senate was able to find a way to fund this bill that doesn’t add to the deficit and allows us to get the enforcement monies we need on a permanent basis.

Q    Do you think that in any way as far as U.S.-India relations and this connection and the companies doing business in India?

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  I think this administration has a very close relationship with India and we hope to sustain it as such.

MR. GIBBS:  April.

Q    Back on the issue of comprehensive immigration reform. There is a concern about the temporary worker program as you were starting -- this precursor that -- Marc Morial, for instance, the head of the National Urban League, is concerned that there needs to be more accountability in the process of screenings just in case there are companies that decide that they may need to go outside of the United States to bring in some workers.  What say you about that and bringing in more accountability as to finding -- making sure that they’ve exhausted all avenues that no one wants to work in that company, and they have to go abroad to Mexico?

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  Well, I think we are all concerned and focused on making sure in the business side of the immigration process that the rules are followed, that the rules are enforced, and that jobs are not unfairly precluded for American workers. And that's the directive that's gone out.

Q    But would -- it might be the directive, but what kind of teeth are you putting in place? What kind of accountability efforts are you putting in place to make sure that businesses are exhausting every measure that they can to make sure that no one wants the job in the United States before they go out into Mexico for hiring?

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  We can give you a separate briefing, but at USCIS, they have begun or have been conducting a lot of oversight or go-backs on visas that are given, to make sure that the rules are being followed.

Q    Lindsay Graham had been specifically working on this issue.  You were talking about the need for Republicans to come to the table.  Is the administration specifically reaching out to him?

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  I think the administration has reached out to a number of Republicans, including Senator Graham. And I think we all recognize that this is an issue that's not going to go away; that immigration needs to be addressed even as we secure the border.  And so, yes, the administration has reached out to Republican leadership and to others, including Senator Graham.

Q    And has he indicated that he will be willing to work with you on something?

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  Well, he co-signed a op-ed with Senator Schumer, and they, together, because of where they sit in the Judiciary Committee structure, have key roles to play on whether an immigration bill could move through the Senate.  And that op-ed, which the President has endorsed, laid out really what the framework for the immigration bill should be.

Q    That was a while ago, though.


Q    I mean more recently.

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  Again, I have seen no sign that there is any change in Senator Graham’s position.

Q    Secretary Napolitano, last week after a nun was killed in a drunk driving accident in Prince William County, you asked for a review into the circumstances that led the alleged driver to be released by ICE back in 2008. Just looking for some details there:  When do you expect that review be completed?  Will the results be public?  And what questions are you hoping it will answer?

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  The review is not complete yet.  I don't have a completion date, but it’s something we’re tracking out of our headquarters.  I think we want to know the same thing that the public wants to know.  Why was this individual with two DUIs in his past out on the road?  And we want to make sure that the directives that we have issued since this individual entered the immigration system, that the directives would make sure that somebody like this would not be released onto the road.

Q    And will those results be made public, or is this just for internal --

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  Let me not answer that question prematurely because I don't know whether there is a -- whether that would compromise an ongoing investigation.  But to the extent we can make things public, we absolutely want to.

Q    Thank you, Madam Secretary.  A number of Republicans, notably on the House side, have indicated they would be warmer toward a comprehensive immigration package if there was more being done on the fence.  Was more money put in for the fence along the border, and what is its status right now?

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  The fence -- there is not money in here specifically for fence, in this supplemental.  But we have built out the fence to the extent, minus about six miles, that it has received appropriations.  And so, in our view, the fence is there. 

But the fence is only part of this.  I mean, as I said, I think famously, when I was a governor, you show me a 15-foot fence and I'll show you a 16-foot ladder.  You got to have infrastructure but you’ve got to have the manpower and technology to back it up.  And you got to have the air cover.  And that’s really the system that we have been putting in place over the last 18 months, and that’s what’s in this bill.

Q    So you’re saying that the fence is just six miles short of completion?

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  From the amount that was appropriated for the fence, that’s right.  And I think that six miles have -- I may be corrected, but I believe almost all of that is in litigation.

Q    You talked about the money in the bill for incarceration and prosecution.  But is that record deportation of criminal immigrants -- was that straining your existing resources?

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  I think that’s -- I think it’s fair to say, yes, it was.  And one of the things about this bill that’s significant is that it recognizes that this is a system, and it’s a system that crosses federal departments.  So if you’re going to increase efforts on border security, if you’re going to increase efforts on removing and deporting criminal aliens and the like, you need more on the detention side, you need more on the immigration judge side, you need more on the U.S. attorneys side.  So there’s $196 million in here for the Justice Department.

Q    Secretary Napolitano, could I ask you to weigh in on the 14th Amendment controversy before Congress right now?  Do you think it’s remotely practicable to -- I don’t know, deport babies -- I don’t know -- what do you make, from an immigration perspective and a policy perspective, about this “born in the United States” and discussion about whether you should no longer be a citizen?  Are you surprised that Senator Graham and some of the other senators who have intimated they wanted to debate this issue have gone there?

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  I have to tell you I am surprised, to say the least, that discussion is being had about amending the United States Constitution before we even get to the table on amending the statutes that actually carry out immigration policy. I think that's where the action needs to be.  And any talk of amending the Constitution is just wrong.

Q    Do you say it’s political also, or do you think it’s serious --

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  I think it’s just wrong.

Q    Can we follow up on that? 

MR. GIBBS:  Sure. (Laughter.)  

Q    I’m sorry -- I just wonder if you’ve discussed that with the President and do you have a sense of his feelings on it?

MR. GIBBS:  Well, Sheryl, I think I spoke on this two days ago, after having discussed this with the President.  And what I said was I very much -- the President and Secretary Napolitano agree on this. 

Let’s take this a couple different ways.  The 14th Amendment enshrines, and has for more than 150 years, equal protection and due process -- two things that we don't think need to be tampered with.  I think the Secretary just pointed out the process for augmenting the Constitution takes a long time.  With a little leadership, we could have comprehensive immigration reform.  And it is always interesting that -- and I said this the other day and I will say it one more time -- that those that have, with steadfast fidelity, talked about not tampering with our Constitution have now swerved to pick the 14th Amendment as the best place to address comprehensive immigration reform.  It is -- it’s rich in its irony; it’s wrong in its approach.

Q    Governor Brewer, in justifying the state’s immigration law, has repeatedly said that the federal government is not doing its job.  Do you see this legislation, in part, as an answer to that criticism?  And I’m also wondering if you can talk about what conversations -- we know she met with the President earlier this year -- that you have had with her, your successor?

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  Well, I’ll take it in two ways.  One is I think her factual premise was just wrong.  The facts are the facts.  And the facts are that there are more Border Patrol agents at that border than ever before; there’s more infrastructure at the border than ever before; there’s more technology at the border than ever before; there’s more air cover at the border than ever before.  And the results are the results. The results are that illegal crossings are way down, and seizures of drugs and guns and cash are way up. 

And so I think that the factual premise that she posited, which is that somehow the federal government had ignored Arizona, was just inaccurate -- and unfairly so.  And we will continue to augment the resources that we have been putting into Arizona, particularly the East side of the state, which is known as the Tucson sector.

You know, when I was the U.S. attorney, I supervised the prosecution of at least 6,000 immigration felonies.  This is an area I know quite well.  And I will tell you there has never been a greater federal presence at this border.  So the factual premise for the bill was wrong. 

Now, I did meet with Governor Brewer in Boston during the NGA, and we just discussed all the things that we were doing at the Arizona border.  It was a very professional and cordial conversation.

Q    Madam Secretary, the Republicans along the way have said that you have to secure the border first.  You, yourself, have listed a number of steps that the administration has taken during the past 18 months.  My question to you is, first of all, how will the administration respond?  Because there are already Republicans saying that this is an important first step, but more has to be done.  The question is, when will the border be secure? Who will certify that the border is secure if that is what is needed to get comprehensive immigration reform?  How do you respond to that?

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  Well, I think this is more than a first step.  I go back to March of 2009, when we began moving assets and resources down into the Southwest border, so I disagree with that characteristic.

Secondly, as I’ve said before, this is a great bill for us.  This is a great bill.  It adds a thousand Border Patrol agents; it adds ICE agents; it adds air cover; it adds other technology. It helps us make sure we have the most up-to-date communications technology at the border, which is really important because some areas you can’t cover with a cell phone because there aren’t any cell towers down there, so you really need the communications capacity.

So that part is there.  And what I would simply say is -- sometimes I hear “securing the border” and the goalpost just keeps moving -- “well, we’ve done this, we need to do this and this and this.”  And I say, look, we will continue to do everything we need to do to have a safe and secure Southwest border.  We will continue to do everything we need to do to work with counties along that border. We now have the Secure Community System, as I said before, at every one of the 25 counties along the border.  We will continue to make sure that our efforts are informed by good intelligence and analysis so we’re not just throwing money at the border. 

But that should not be used anymore to preclude discussions about immigration reform.  As I said many times, these should not be sequential; they should go together.

Q    A second question, Madam Secretary.  ICE has said that they can only get only get to (inaudible) deportations a year because they just don't have more resources.  I wonder if this bill would provide some more resources to get some more deportations.  And the second point is, some activists have said that by passing this bill alone the most radical have hijacked the debate on comprehensive immigration reform, and I would like your reaction on that.

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  Well, I think it is likely that we will see more deportations, particularly in the priority categories I have set forth.  Can I give you a number just yet?  No.  It would be premature to do so.  But obviously our goal is to make the best, most efficient use of the money that we receive from the Congress, and focus it on where we think the best efforts ought to be.  And that is making sure we are removing from our country criminal aliens, felony fugitives, gang members who are also in our country illegally, particularly once they've served their sentences.

For those who say, or who would suggest that somehow this bill is radical -- what did you say -- what was the phrase you used?

Q    They say that by passing this bill alone, the radicals have hijacked the debate, basically, and moving to more enforcement-type --

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  No, I think that’s just wrong.  I think this bill is a bill that the President asked for.  He asked for it because we know that we can make good use of these monies for permanent and consistent across-the-border security, and that’s what we want to have.  But that in no way should be read to suggest, imply, or in any way, back off from the fact that we also need immigration reform.

Q    Secretary, Senator McCain and Senator Kyl said yesterday that key elements of border security are still missing, for example, implementation of Operation Streamline in the Tucson sector, more Border Patrol agents, among other things.  So I was wondering if -- do you agree with this statement?  Do you agree that these kind of measures are still needed in the border?

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  Well, again, Operation Streamline has proven effective in some places where it is used.  We use it in some places.  It’s very expensive, and there are other methods that we use that are proven equally effective.  And so as you’re trying to make the best use of taxpayer dollars and make sure that they’re targeted where they can do the best -- Streamline is one way. Repatriation into the interior of Mexico is another way that has proven very effective.

And so we need a lot of different kinds of tools in our toolbox.  And I think it is a mistake to focus on any single one and say, well, if you don’t have that tool, you don’t have an effective system.  We have a good toolbox.  We have a good system.  And now with these monies, again, passed with the support of Senator McCain and Kyl, we can do even more.

MR. GIBBS:  We’ll take one more.

Q    Just a follow-up, a quick follow-up?  Madam Secretary, you said that leadership is needed from the Republicans and Democrats in Congress in order to have comprehensive immigration reform.  But in Congress they said that leadership in the White House is needed in order to have comprehensive immigration reform.  So at the end of the day --

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  Look, only Congress can pass a bill. The President can advocate, he can get them to the table, as he has in the Roosevelt Room upstairs.  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.

MR. GIBBS:  Take one more in the very back.

Q    Businesses from India and the U.S. have said that the portion of the bill which raises the fee on H1 and L1 visa is discriminatory and this would undermine the growing economic relations between India and the U.S.  What’s your comment on that?

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  I don't think it will.  I think the United States and India have a robust and vital relationship, and nothing in this bill should interfere with that.

Q    Just to follow up, about the WTO scenario where the U.S. can be taken to -- the WTO rules are being violated with this bill.

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  On that I can’t comment.  That has not been raised to me at all.

MR. GIBBS:  Thank you, Madam Secretary.

SECRETARY NAPOLITANO:  All right, thank you.

MR. GIBBS:  Should we do a few other topics, and then call it a Friday?

Ben and then I'll go to April.

Q    Thanks, Robert.  A couple quick topics.  Down in the Gulf today could be the day that the well is sealed for good, depending on, I guess, test results there.  Can you give us any indication on how that's going?

MR. GIBBS:  Well, I would say -- and I think we will have directives from the National Incident Commander soon -- the scientific team met and was meeting this morning, as they have in each big step along the way, to evaluate where we were, take pressure readings, evaluate all the data that's applicable in making those next decisions. 

As you know, the storm delayed some of the activity on the relief well.  It is our hope that, even as we have put the mud into the well-bore and cemented the well, that the final steps that will kill this well off once and for all will resume soon and hopefully come to fruition.  It’d be nice to have that sometime this weekend. (Laughter.)  It would be nice to -- well -- (laughter) -- no, no, it would be nice to have had that about 110 days ago, but I say that not because of the proximity of the President’s trip.  I say that because we have maintained throughout this process that that was the end of this well, is having that relief well and have -- what that means in terms of the stability of the entire well structure -- that is obviously important to moving forward. 

I will say this -- and I repeat this because it is important to this government and to this President. This would end -- a relief well -- a successful relief well would end this phase of, but would not end our commitment to this region.  We still have oil to clean up.  We still have an environment to monitor and measure and study.  We have natural resource damage assessments that will be -- fines that will be given to BP for that.  And we have a process by which restoration of the Gulf will begin.

Secretary Mabus will travel with the President tomorrow to Florida, and they will talk more about that process. 

Q    Talk more about the restoration process?

MR. GIBBS:  Talk more about sort of what these -- what sort of we're shifting into in terms of the next steps in this process.  I think it is important that the people in the region understand and know clearly that -- our focus has been for the past many days what we think is now very much upon us, and that is a well that is dead.  I think it is important to know that this well has not leaked oil for a month.  That is important -- certainly important to the environment and to the people of the Gulf.  This well, the relief well would kill this once and for all.  That ends that phase as we transition to the next phase.

Q    And one other point, moving a little bit further ahead -- can you frame White House goals and expectations for the President’s U.S. trip next week?  I mean, he’s going all over the place.  Obviously a lot of political fundraisers to that, but he’s got a policy event every day.  What does he hope to get out of this?

MR. GIBBS:  Well, look, I think you’ll hear the President talk a lot about the economy, different aspects of it, in different places, whether it’s our initiative on exports and other things.  Obviously the President’s travel includes, as you mentioned, Ben, a hefty amount of political travel for Senate candidates, for gubernatorial candidates, and for the congressional committee.  And some of the money raised goes directly to state parties to build campaigns, strong campaign, top to bottom, within the state in some very important areas in 2010.

I think the President takes that role seriously.  And we obviously are getting closer and closer to some very important elections where we'll make some important choices about going backwards or going forwards.  You’ll hear that speech again. (Laughter.) 

Q    To clarify, it sounds like you're not willing to give up on the relief wells.  Just leaving the cemented top as it is now is not enough for you.

MR. GIBBS:  I hesitate to get ahead of what I think the National Incident Commander is going to do soon.  Again, the way we’ve always talked about this is the importance of that relief well.  Despite the fact that if you -- look, a month ago, a sealing cap largely prevented additional oil from coming out.  Mud on top of that increased that.  The cementing of that increased that.  But we still have the relief well.

Q    How do you ever go back in and find out what went wrong in the first place?  You’ve got all these oil wells out there that can’t budge until you guys find out what happened --

MR. GIBBS:  Well, there’s a scientific and engineering process that is ongoing that’s -- I forget the exact name of it but I'll get it -- that’s an investigation that’s headlined out of New Orleans, that will look at -- and, look, I think one of the things we’ll want to do is look at some of the components that are there and see the degree to which they contributed to what happened on April 20th.

Q    Is the President discouraged at all at the stubborn nature of the economic recovery?

MR. GIBBS:  Yes, has been for going on 18 months.

Q    So what else -- I mean, everything is being thrown at it.  You hear about creating more opportunities for small businesses, creating more jobs --

MR. GIBBS:  Which I think is -- which, I will tell you, is a priority of the President and what he hopes is a priority that the Senate will complete when it comes back to do its business in the fall.

We hear a lot about how important small business is -- it’s true; how important small business is to creating jobs -- that’s true.  What we need now is that rhetoric to match the support of Republicans on Capitol Hill that, for the most part, have voted against -- let’s be clear -- ending capital gains for small business, increasing the amount that small businesses can deduct based on the investments that they make, and increasing through community banks the lending that’s available for credit to expand and hire more workers.

That is tremendously important.  I think what happened just earlier this week, ensuring that 160,000 teachers and 160,000 classrooms weren’t without those teachers was tremendously important.  I have said this millions of times and I'll make it a million and one.  We looked at and we continue to face the greatest economic downturn that our country has seen since the Great Depression in almost every person’s lifetime.  It is going to take a while to get out of that hole.  We will continue to work at finding whatever solutions are necessary for trying to do that.

I think if you look at -- and I know this is -- the President understands the frustration that the millions without jobs face.  What is economically indisputable is that the actions that were taken prevented something much, much, much worse from coming to fruition.

Q    What will it take to restore the confidence, though, in the American people who -- in the spring, when we were talking to people, you got the sense that everyone thought things were getting better.  Now, polling, it seems that people think otherwise.

MR. GIBBS:  Well, as I said here the other day, I think the trajectory of where April and August are, are different.

Now, what we’re not debating is whether that trajectory is up or down, okay?  If you look at where we were a year ago, if you look at where we were a year and a half ago, we were fighting an economy that was contracting greatly, we were fighting an economy that was shedding hundreds of thousands of jobs --  700,000, 750,000 jobs a month.  We’re adding jobs.  Our economy is growing.  Not as fast as the President and many of those that are frustrated would want -- and I would include the President among those that is frustrated.

Obviously some events happened, I think beginning, as you’ve heard the President and myself say, beginning in Greece and in Europe, that have caused people to become concerned.

Q    On the President’s trip this weekend -- this was asked a couple of days ago -- but any plans to get in the water?

MR. GIBBS:  I doubt that that will go out specifically on the guidance, but stay tuned.  (Laughter.)

Q    Everyone wants the picture, Robert.

Q    So, yes?

MR. GIBBS:  What’s that?

Q    What this is about is that everyone wants the photograph.

MR. GIBBS:  Are you guys bringing your suits?  (Laughter.)   Are you -- go ahead.

Q    So, yes, right?  It just won’t be on the guidance?  If I were going -- I would bring my suit if I were going, but I'm not going.

MR. GIBBS:  But you’re not -- well.  (Laughter.)  Give your Speedo to somebody else.

Q    So the question is, will we get in the water, and will there be pictures?

MR. GIBBS:  I will wait --

Q    Are the waters clean enough to get into?

MR. GIBBS:  Of course they’re clean enough to get into. 

Q    Would that say something if he takes a walk down the beach but doesn’t put his feet in the water?

MR. GIBBS:  Guys, why don't we all worry about what happens on Saturday. 

Q    Because this is Friday.

MR. GIBBS:  I know.  I know it’s Friday and we have to preview whether or not the President will go swimming.  (Laughter.)  I’m going to let --

Q    That’s the biggest tourism --

Q    Swim -- we're not saying swimming.  He can just walk in the water.

MR. GIBBS:  I see, just walking in the water.

Q    No, no, above the knees.

MR. GIBBS:  All right, you guys maybe get together, figure out -- (laughter) -- what would appropriately check the Aquaman box and -- (laughter.)

Q    If you would say it now, it’s the biggest tourism --

Q    I have a non-swimming question.  (Laughter.)  Was the President briefed about GM’s news yesterday? 

MR. GIBBS:  Yes.

Q    How did he react?  And when, with an IPO likely in the coming months, does he expect to get back the government’s money?

MR. GIBBS:  Let me -- I want to state clearly, I am not, and you have heard on any number of occasions, members of this administration, we’re not going to comment on an IPO. Obviously that is a process that is ongoing.  Once that process begins, the Securities and the Exchange Commission has purview over that process, and I’m not going to run afoul of that.

The President -- obviously we are grateful for and I think the country should be grateful for the service and the sacrifice of Ed Whitacre.  The President was informed of this, and our belief is that Dan Akerson is a proven and well-respected individual that will carry on what Ed and others have started in restructuring an auto company that not too long ago was on the brink of extinction.  They announced again yesterday a quarterly profit.  They are on the upswing, as the other auto companies are, as well. 

You’ve heard the President and the administration say -- and I’m not saying this not necessarily in the relation to the timing of IPOs -- but our belief is that if you look at the valuation of the company and the investment that we put in, we believe the money that this administration put in will be gotten back. 

And I think the reason is -- and I think this is important  -- the money that we invested came with managerial changes that had to be enacted.  I think Ed Whitacre and I think Dan Akerson understand that GM made a series of decisions that got them into a position, with the type of economic downturn that we’ve had, that, quite frankly, put the existence of the company in great danger. 

I think both of those individuals -- and I think you have a management structure and work ethic at that company in management -- and we all saw the tremendous job that those that are working each day putting those new cars together -- there’s an understanding that they have a second chance; that that investment required them to do some things differently, and they are, and now there’s a much different story to tell in the auto world, that will only, quite frankly, get better as our economy gets stronger, and more people buy cars. 

You’ve heard me say these figures before -- the auto industry’s sort of apex was 17 million to 17.5 million car sales a year. The economy that we were dealing with when the President came into office was one that was selling at 9-9.5 million cars a year.  Now we’re up to 11-11.5 million cars a year.  We’ll get higher and higher, and the industry itself will get, by definition, stronger and stronger.

Q    Can I follow up on that, Robert?

MR. GIBBS:  Yes.

Q    Does the President feel like his philosophy on governance has been vindicated by this?

MR. GIBBS:  Well, I think his philosophy that a million people shouldn’t lose their jobs without us taking -- without us doing what is necessary to keep them, I think the President’s philosophy that communities that are built around and generations of families that are built around work in the auto industry shouldn’t be abandoned without a fighting chance I think has proven to be correct.

The President would be, though, the first to tell you that management decisions that were made, as I just talked about, to change the direction and trajectory of the auto industry were important.  And everybody made sacrifices -- most of all, the workers, as they did what they thought they needed to do to keep an industry in place.  They owe -- they are owed a lot of credit for what has happened.


Q    Are you familiar with the Benenson memo?

MR. GIBBS:  The Benenson memo -- I don't know what the memo is.

Q    -- or maybe you could just address the argument, basically it’s that this is not going to be a wave election because the Republicans are even less popular than the Democrats are.

MR. GIBBS:  Well, I will say -- my sense is Joel’s memo is sitting somewhere in my in-box.  I have not seen Joel’s memo.  I will say if you just look at -- if you look at the NBC poll, you see that the drop in ratings for Republicans is greater than any other political party.  They continue to be less popular than Democrats.

I think if you look at that polling, you see a fairly appreciable change in the enthusiasm gap over the course of several months.  I think quite honestly the President has pointed out to the American people and others what those choices are:  Are we going to take an economic philosophy that got us into this mess and go back to that, or an economic philosophy that is getting out of it?  And I think that's what the next several months of this election will be about, and I think we’ll do well in November.

Q    That, along with the recent election, does the White House, does the President feel Democrats are on a little bit of a roll right now?

MR. GIBBS:  Well, as I said, Chip, I think there’s -- what is -- undoubtedly, Democrats had a very good Tuesday.  In every state we nominated the strongest candidates, and in many of those races got opponents that I think most people believe make the chances of Republicans winning many of those races less likely.

Q    Tomorrow, does the President see this as a family vacation, and can you really have a family vacation in 27 hours?

MR. GIBBS:  Well, the President views this as -- I think it’s important --

Q    Wasn’t it originally billed as a vacation?

MR. GIBBS:  No, I think this was originally billed as, and continues to be billed as, highlighting the notion that a region of the country that is heavily dependent upon tourism is alive, well, and open for business.

For a number of these communities, certainly those closer to Louisiana and Mississippi and in Alabama, for a lot of these communities, you talk to folks there, and this was to be the first season, past Katrina and Rita and other natural disasters, that things would have been back to normal for the entire time.  And we know that well down the coast of Florida, communities that never saw oil are being impacted economically.  Tourism in Florida and along the Gulf Coast is the economy.

This is an opportunity to highlight the notion that this important region of the country is still doing well and open for business.  It will also provide the President an opportunity to, again, talk to those that have been affected by the damage caused by BP, and a desire to talk again with them about what has to happen going forward to restore, both economically and environmentally, the damage that’s been done.

Q    Not a vacation?

MR. GIBBS:  Look, he’s going to have some fun.  Whether or not he gets in the water is up for clearly some debate.  (Laughter.)  But, look, he will have an opportunity to enjoy the physical beauty of the Gulf and do some work at the same time.

Q    This evening the President is hosting an Iftaar dinner in honor of Ramadan, in celebration of Ramadan.  Has the President been monitoring closely the U.S.-allies coordinated efforts in the Pakistani-Gulf relief efforts, Robert?

MR. GIBBS:  Well, look, obviously the President has, in his PDB, been briefed on the flooding that has occurred in Pakistan and asked that -- asked each day specifically about the relief efforts there and to ensure that all that can be done is being done to assist the Pakistanis in what clearly is a devastating environment with devastating pictures.*

Q    Robert, a follow on the Ramadan?

Q    Reaction to Russia’s announcement that it is fueling the nuclear power plant in Iran at Bushehr?  Did we ask them recently not to do this?  I presumed we’ve maintained all along that we don’t want them to do this until --

MR. GIBBS:  Well, look, I think this is -- I think what is important here is this is done under IAEA -- under the monitoring and the safeguards of the IAEA.  Russia is providing for the fuel and taking the spent fuel back out of the country.  It, quite clearly, I think, underscores that Iran does not need its own enrichment capability if its intentions, as it states, are for a peaceful nuclear program.

So I think, in many ways, this is a concept that closes that fuel loop, and I think, again, demonstrates and proves to the world that if the Iranians are sincere in a peaceful program, their needs can be met without undertaking its own enrichment program, which call into question its motives.

Q    Robert, can I ask a follow-up?

Q    On another matter, WikiLeaks says it’s going to release about half of the 15,000 documents it withheld because of its admitted concern about their sensitivity initially.  Does this trouble you more than the initial release?

MR. GIBBS:  Look, I would -- I don’t know that it would be easy to quantify the troubling nature of the initial releases with this release as well.  I think all of the releases have been troubling.

We discussed the nature of what’s in these documents, why there are laws in place to ensure that documents that are classified as secret and top secret aren’t posted on the Internet. It’s the safety and the security of our soldiers.  And I think if you go back to the beginning of -- or go back to the initial release of documents and find what the spokesman for the Taliban said specifically about names that they found in those documents, that they knew how to deal with those individuals.  I think we’re clear on what that means.  And I think we’re clear on the danger that those that are helping an effort to provide safety and security and peace to the Afghans, how that is threatened by those who wish to do us harm and those who wish to continue to garner attention for themselves by posting these documents on the Internet.

Q    If I can ask one final question.  Norm Eisen’s departure and the decision to basically chop up his responsibilities among other officials and not name another ethics czar -- why should that not be seen as a lessening in commitment --

MR. GIBBS:  I don't know who came up with the notion of the “ethics czar.”

Q    Well, we like the czar.

MR. GIBBS:  No, I’ve watched your channel; I know.  (Laughter.)

Q    I mean “we,” writ large.

MR. GIBBS:  I’ve seen those 37 stories, Wendell.

Q    Not just us.  Why shouldn’t this be seen as a lessened commitment to transparency and accountability?

MR. GIBBS:  There are a number of attorneys in the Counsel’s Office and an added position in the Domestic Policy Council to oversee our efforts to reform the way our government works and to ensure its highest ethical standard.

Understand, though, Wendell, that charge does not come from a participant in the Counsel’s Office or a staffer at the DPC.  It comes from the President of the United States -- a President who, as a state senator in Illinois, worked to change laws in that state that allowed at one point you to use your campaign fund to buy a car not for campaign purposes but just to drive around; somebody who worked in the U.S. Senate to pass landmark ethics reform in 2007, and has instituted here some of the toughest rules on closing the revolving door and ensuring that the people of this country know each and every month who comes in to meet with people and who they meet with.

Q    To clarify Ann’s earlier question on top kill versus static kill, Admiral Allen said yesterday -- I believe it was yesterday in a briefing -- that there was a possibility that there was more harm than good in trying to go for the relief well.  And you’ve noted here today that all along you guys have said that the relief well is the final end-all.  I'd just like a little clarification on that.  Are you intimating that you will go ahead with the relief well?

MR. GIBBS:  The powers vested in me are not the same as those at the National Incident Command.  I’m going to let them make the final announcements on that.  I think what Admiral Allen might have -- I did not see what he specifically said that you just talked about.  There has been -- and I said this earlier -- at each of the big points along the way, before different operations -- static kill, top kill, the sealing cap, what have you -- have taken place, there has been a robust and vigorous discussion with the scientific team, largely headed by Secretary Chu, to evaluate each of the steps that we’re taking.  Because obviously doing no harm to the situation that we have now is tremendously important.  So I know that there were meetings going on today to evaluate a whole range of scientific data around the well, the integrity of the well, and a whole host of features.

Q    You’re not implying here today the relief well will definitely be drilled?

MR. GIBBS:  Well, I want to not simply imply, but state clearly that that direction will come from the National Incident Command.

Q    Can I talk a little --

MR. GIBBS:  Oh, go ahead.

Q    I’m sorry, just one more, I’m sorry.  The symbolic nature of the trip to the Gulf -- there was some criticism when the First Family went to Maine after the First Lady had encouraged others to go to Panama City.  Can you talk a little bit about the picture, the symbolic nature of why they’re going to be there?

MR. GIBBS:  Well, again, I think that for anybody -- look, I grew up not far from there.  I have friends that are vacationing in the Gulf right now.  That region of our country is so heavily dependent upon visitors from throughout the region and throughout the country for the nature of their economy.  That’s what fills those hotels.  That’s what fills those restaurants.  And what the President wants to do is highlight the health of the region, the vitality of the region, that it’s open for business, and that we hope others will do the same.

Q    So there’s no reason for anyone not to go to the Gulf.

MR. GIBBS:  There’s no reason for anybody not to go.

Q    At the dinner tonight, do you anticipate that the President will address the issue of the mosque in New York?

MR. GIBBS:  I have not seen the President’s final remarks, Laura.  I will say this.  I think the President strongly believes that our country was founded on, first and foremost, on a tenet of religious freedom.  We have events throughout the year -- Christmas, Hanukkah, tonight’s event, Iftaar, and others -- to celebrate the rich diversity of religious freedom in this country that goes back, as I said, to its founding.  I anticipate he’ll talk about that.  Again, I have not seen the final remarks.

Q    How does that square, though, with the earlier comments on this from the White House that this is a local matter?

MR. GIBBS:  Religious freedom is something that the President believes in and I think you’ll hear him talk about tonight.

Q    Robert, back on Bushehr reactor, in March, when Secretary Clinton was in Russia, she said that it would be premature to open the plant until Iran had given the international community reassurances that its nuclear program was only for civil and peaceful purposes.  So what’s changed?  You seem to be endorsing it.

MR. GIBBS:  I would point you over to State.  I think they can answer the difference on where we are today.

Q    Robert, two things.  One, is the fact that the President’s water visit is in question because possibly about Secret Service and security getting in the water with him?  Is that some of the issue?  (Laughter.)  No, no, no, it’s a real issue, because he said something about like that in Hawaii.

MR. GIBBS:  And, April, I got to tell you, you will never see me stand up here and talk about security issues, whether it’s relevant to this question or not.

Q    Okay, one more question, one more --

MR. GIBBS:  You ended with a big one, and -- go ahead, go with your follow-up.

Q    No, it’s on the Katrina anniversary. 

MR. GIBBS:  Go ahead.

Q    How is New Orleans now like another American city, especially since this administration has pulled it out of its standalone status, in the ways that you look at it? We understand that you have lumped New Orleans in with other cities that are -- that just have the normal financial issues and things of that nature.

MR. GIBBS:  I don’t know what you’re --

Q    How is -- looking at findings --

MR. GIBBS:  Let me -- before you rephrase your question.  The region that was impacted so devastatingly by Katrina, I want to assure you this administration does not look at like it looks at everything.  I'll be honest with you, April, I don’t think you could look at the actions, the funding that we’ve freed up, the stuff that has been done by Secretary Donovan on housing, the reforms that have been helped and moved along by Secretary Duncan in education -- I think the premise of your question, the notion that somehow we’ve turned a blind eye to treat that -- I know you’re shaking your head, but I'm going to take this for a little bit of a ride -- I just don't think the premise of your question is accurate.

Q    Okay, I wasn’t saying that it’s not special, it doesn’t have its needs.  What I was saying -- and let me rephrase it -- is that some OMB officials came over earlier -- around -- just right after the release of the FY2011 budget. And we asked about New Orleans, and they said New Orleans is now, by this administration, viewed in light -- like Detroit.  It’s in a category -- it’s not standalone anymore but it’s in another category of a special-needs kind of -- still moving forward.  That’s --

MR. GIBBS:  I'll be honest with you, April.  I have not heard that.

Q    The bill the President signed to reduce the disparities between crack cocaine and powder cocaine is not retroactive, so those who were serving -- or offenders that were serving before he signed the bill will be serving longer sentences than people in the future.  Has he thought about reducing those sentences, or has anyone looked at this?

MR. GIBBS:  It’s a good question that I will ask somebody about.

Q    The Wall Street Journal yesterday reported that Axelrod met yesterday with Elizabeth Warren.  Can you confirm that?

MR. GIBBS:  I can.

Q    And what do you make of that?  Were they talking about the appointment? 

MR. GIBBS:  They were discussing whether we were going to go swimming in the Gulf.  (Laughter.)

Q    Walk on the water or --

MR. GIBBS:  I tried the best I could not to laugh as I was doing it.

No, look, obviously she was here.  I think it -- look, the consumer office is an aspect of the financial reform/Wall Street reform bill that the President signed recently.  It is -- it in many ways was an idea conceptualized by Elizabeth Warren several years ago.  Obviously we have said that she is among those being looked at for a role in that new bureau, because the President believes that -- if you think about the intersection that most people have with the financial industry in this country -- it’s getting loans for a house, it’s getting loans for autos, it’s credit cards.  The reforms that the President worked on and passed earlier, particularly around credit cards and the protections that he thinks need to happen going forward in loans like the ones I talked about, are a big part of the financial reform bill that he passed.

I will say I do not expect any personnel announcements about this job in the coming week.  But she was here to talk about the office yesterday.

Thanks, guys.

Q    Week ahead?

MR. GIBBS:  The week ahead will go out in email in just a little bit.

Q    All right, you said week or weeks for the announcement on the financial --

MR. GIBBS:  Week, week. I don't anticipate anything next week.

Thank you, guys.

1:25 P.M. EDT

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