There’s no one better than a border governor to lead an office in charge of securing our borders and heading immigration enforcement and services. Recent reports indicate Governor Janet Napolitano (D-AZ) is emerging as the front runner for the position of Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under the new Democratic administration. DHS is responsible for protecting the U.S. from terrorism, responding to natural disasters, as well as heading customs and border enforcement, citizenship and immigration services, and the secret service.
In choosing Napolitano, the incoming administration is tapping someone who has experience with a variety of enforcement measures, while at the same time signaling their desire to have a strong advocate for immigration reform running the agencies that manage and execute immigration policy in America.
We will quickly see indications of her direction as she picks up the mantle and deals with issues like the incomplete barrier fence along parts of the U.S. border with Mexico, a project which has been plagued with budget and technical difficulties. According to Marc Ambinder of the Atlantic:
The next secretary will essentially be laying out the party’s philosophy on a wide range of issues, from border security and immigration to counterterrorism.
Napolitano reportedly once said, “You build a 50-foot wall, somebody will find a 51-foot ladder.” The governor also caused a stir in 2006 when she called for the National Guard to protect the border and in 2007 when she signed into law a controversial requirement for all Arizona businesses to use a federal online database to attempt to verify employment known as E-Verify.
However, Napolitano has pushed for more than just enforcement, deriding the current administration for its failure to secure our borders and provide for a realistic and functional immigration system. She called for comprehensive reform very publicly in the Washington Post, including improved border security measures and a system to bring illegal immigrants “out of the economic shadows.” The Governor is also currently billing the federal government for $500 million in reimbursements for the policing and jailing of immigrants. Additionally, the Governor diverted resources in Arizona away from raids in Latino communities and focused instead on deporting criminal fugitives.
If chosen, the Governor’s first-hand experience in balancing enforcement with preserving the integrity of communities in Arizona will serve her well as she seeks to guide DHS and advise the new administration on the future of U.S. immigration policy.