As the Senate opened its first hearing on a more comprehensive immigration overhaul Wednesday, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer emphasized the need for more security along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano took the stand saying the call for more border security an excuse.
"Our borders have in fact never been stronger," she said.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials have said the border is more secure than at any time in history. But after a three-hour aerial tour of the border in her state, Brewer said there's more to be done.
"First and foremost, I truly believe we need more boots on the ground," she said.
During Wednesday's hearing, calls for swift action on a pathway to citizenship for the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants was placed as priority over border security.
"The president is right: Now is the time," Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., told a packed hearing room.
The hearing comes one day after the president used his State of the Union address to renew his call for immigration reform and eventual citizenship for illegal immigrants.
President Obama said he's finally ready to make good on his promise to the Latino community to sign into law a comprehensive immigration bill with border security, employer enforcement, improvements to legal immigration, and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already here.
To that end, a bipartisan group of eight senators has been meeting to develop a bill by next month that accomplishes eventual citizenship for illegal immigrants while also providing enough border security and enforcement measures to gain conservative support.
As for Brewer, she said she will not support a change in immigration policy until the border is secure.