This morning it was announced that the Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano is resigning her positions to head up the University of California system. This leaves some wondering about what this might mean for the immigration debate as the legislation makes its way through the House of Representatives. Napolitano’s departure could mean that the President can pick someone to adjust the tone and messaging at the Department of Homeland Security. Napolitano’s DHS has set records for deportations and has overseen an increase in border security. Obama could play into the hands of the House GOP by picking someone who is perceived to be tough on enforcement, or he could try to appease those in the immigrant community by selecting someone who is more focused on human rights.
President Obama released a statement thanking Napolitano for her work, “I want to thank Secretary Napolitano for her outstanding work on behalf of the American people over the last four years. At the Department of Homeland Security, Janet’s portfolio has included some of the toughest challenges facing our country. She’s worked around the clock to respond to natural disasters, from the Joplin tornado to Hurricane Sandy, helping Americans recover and rebuild. Since day one, Janet has led my administration’s effort to secure our borders, deploying a historic number of resources, while also taking steps to make our immigration system fairer and more consistent with our values. And the American people are safer and more secure thanks to Janet’s leadership in protecting our homeland against terrorist attacks. I’ve come to rely on Janet’s judgment and advice, but I’ve also come to value her friendship. And as she begins a new chapter in a remarkable career of public service, I wish her the best of luck.”
Napolitano called her work at DHS the highlight of her professional career, saying, “The opportunity to work with the dedicated men and women of the Department of Homeland Security, who serve on the frontlines of our nation’s efforts to protect our communities and families from harm, has been the highlight of my professional career. We have worked together to minimize threats of all kinds to the American public. The Department has improved the safety of travelers; implemented smart steps that make our immigration system more fair and focused while deploying record resources to protect our nation’s borders; worked with states to build resiliency and make our nation’s emergency and disaster response capabilities more robust; and partnered with the private sector to improve our cybersecurity. After four plus years of focusing on these challenges, I will be nominated as the next President of the University of California to play a role in educating our nation’s next generation of leaders.”
Janet Napolitano’s new gig at the University of California will also be interesting for the state’s premiere higher education system because she comes from law enforcement. In recent years, there have been a series of student protests at UC campuses. One incident at the University of California, Davis involved officers who were caught on video dousing peacefully protesting students with pepper spray, while prodding them with batons. This incident prompted the previous UC President Mark Yudof to order a review of police procedures. Napolitano is perceived as a “cop,” so if she’s tough on students, she’s likely to face some backlash. Worth noting: Napolitano does not have professional experience in academia.