Homeland Security to be Headed by Advocate of Comprehensive Immigration Reform

By Attorneys Robert L. Reeves and Joseph I. Elias

On December 1, 2008, President Elect Obama announced his nomination for the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) which is responsible for setting, administering and enforcing the United States’ immigration policies.  Janet Napolitano, the current Governor of Arizona, was named to head DHS.  Her position on immigration is that the country requires comprehensive immigration reform.   

Governor Napolitano may prove to be a bellwether of a positive immigration action in the new administration.  Her views on immigration were expressed in an editorial published in the Washington Post on June 10, 2007 shortly after the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill was killed.  Governor Napolitano wrote, “On the subject of immigration, my plea to Congress is loud and clear: You can’t quit now. Last week the Senate was on the verge of addressing our broken immigration system.”  

She advocated for immigration reform, stating opponents, “merely yelled ‘amnesty’ in place of reasoned opposition. They were — and are — just plain wrong. Don’t let them derail your efforts.”  Governor Napolitano discussed how the broken immigration system resulted in a silent amnesty with little enforcement that ends up being arbitrary and unfair.  She cited as an example of the unfairness, a family broken apart by deportation.  

Governor Napolitano also discussed the case of how precious law enforcement resources were spent in a years-long battle to deport high school students rather than on combating putative terrorist threats.

Governor Napolitano is by no means soft on illegal immigrants.  She is the first governor to declare a state of emergency at the Arizona border and called for the assistance of the National Guard.  As a U.S. Attorney, she also supervised the prosecution of more than 6,000 immigration felonies.  She governed a state where in 2005 there were 550,000 apprehensions of illegal immigrants.  Governor Napolitano also established task forces to combat the manufacture of fraudulent identification.

As Secretary of DHS, Governor Napolitano will inherit responsibility for the thorny issue of immigration.  She has demonstrated that she can be tough on immigration by effectuating bold new immigration enforcement measures.  And, she believes in the need to reform our broken immigration system.  Her view on immigration is perhaps best summed up in her closing statement in her editorial,  “It is fundamentally unfair and unrealistic to suggest that our system remain as it is and ignore the 12 million who ran the gantlet at the border and managed to find work in our country. It is not ‘amnesty’ to require these individuals to earn the privilege of citizenship, as have the millions of immigrants who came before them.  We need comprehensive reform, and we need it this year.”