Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Almost four months ago, Janet Napolitano, former Governor of Arizona and Secretary of Homeland Security, became President of the University of California, one of the world’s great public universities. In the last few weeks, a number of news stories, including one in the New York Times, discussed some of the challenges that President Napolitano faces in her new post. Some of the focus has been on her record as Secretary of Homeland Security in the Obama administration, which has removed more noncitizens from the United States than any previous administration in American history.
As readers well know, the ImmigrationProf blog has been critical of the Obama administration’s immigration record, with hundreds of thousands of removals each year through programs like Secure Communities and the promise but not the reality of comprehensive immigration reform. President Obama has made immigration enforcement his signature immigration priority and, despite calls from some quarters for ever-greater immigration enforcement, the Department of Homeland Security unquestionably has followed the President’s lead.
Still, it seems that President Napolitano is not getting the credit she deserves for some of the immigration breakthroughs during her tenure as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. For example, after years of congressional footdragging on the DREAM Act, the administration in June 2012 announced and in just a matter of months implemented the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This program offered relief from removal (albeit more limited in certain respects than that which Congress could have provided under the DREAM Act) to undocumented youth and young adults.
In addition, only hours after the Supreme Court invalidated the Defense of Marriage Act, Secretary Napolitano issued a statement that the U.S. government would immediately be recognizing same sex marriages for immigration purposes, a sharp departure from longstanding practice. Secretary Napolitano deserves credit for the speed and decisiveness of this statement, which without leadership could have been lost in bureaucratic infighting for months if not years.
All this said, it seems that it is time for President Napolitano to be left to run the University of California and maintain and improve its educational, research, and service capacities. President Napolitano has attempted to gain trust from communities that suspected her record in the Department of Homeland Security. She met with immigrant student groups on her listening tours of the various UC campus and announced $5 million of much-need financial assistance to undocumented UC students. Hopefully, President Napolitano will be afforded the chance of tackling the difficult challenges facing the Uniiversity of California.