U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is leaving the Obama administration and will be nominated to head the University of California, she announced on Friday.
In a brief statement, Napolitano, a former Democratic governor of Arizona, called her tenure at the helm of the massive agency the highlight of her career.
Her resignation comes as Congress is in the midst of debating a massive immigration overhaul measure that supporters hope includes a pathway to citizenship for the 11 to 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country, about 1.6 million of whom live in Texas. The department includes U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services.
Since her appointment in 2009, Napolitano has been criticized by several GOP lawmakers, including U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who say her agency has failed to secure the border and in some instances bypassed the laws DHS is supposed to enforce. The allegations come despite the Obama administration’s record number of deportations of undocumented immigrants during her tenure.
Immigrants’ rights groups are also pleased at the announcement, and are calling on the president to appoint a reform-minded replacement.
"The president can start by ending the Secure Communities program and renouncing the deportation quota that drives it,” said Chris Newman, legal director for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. “He can halt the border militarization that not even Republicans are calling for. And more than anything, he can take the one bright spot of Napolitano's tenure, deferred action for dream-eligible youth, and expand it to all undocumented immigrants living and working in the United States.”
Below is Napolitano’s full statement:
“For more than four years I have had the privilege of serving President Obama and his Administration as the Secretary of Homeland Security. 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. I thank President Obama for the chance to serve our nation during this important chapter in our history, and I know the Department of Homeland Security will continue to perform its important duties with the honor and focus that the American public expects.”