A Napolitano Nomination Could Signal Shift In Focus At Homeland Security

A Napolitano Nomination Could Signal Shift in Focus at Homeland Security (TWO ARTICLES + LINKS TO OTHERS)

By Matthew Johnson, Rob Margetta and Caitlin Webber
The Congressional Quarterly (Washington, DC), November 20, 2008

The potential appointment of Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano to lead the Homeland Security Department could signal a shift in focus away from the war on terror and toward domestic concerns, especially immigration.

As governor of a border state, she has been on the frontline of the simmering debate over illegal immigration.

'From a policy standpoint, if I were to guess, she would want to do a pretty serious and systematic review of the border strategy at this time and whether its achieving its goals,' said Doris Meissner, head of the Immigration and Naturalization Service under President Bill Clinton and now a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute.

'Of all of the parts of the immigration system, more money has flowed into the border enforcement part of the system than by far in any of the rest of it. Any leader or new group of leaders needs to ask if we are getting the payoff that is commiserate with the investment,' Meissner said.

A focus on immigration would necessarily entail a swing away from the departments focus on counterterrorism, but with the disparate DHS portfolio, the next secretary will not be able to ignore other issues.

'I think [a Napolitano nomination] suggests kind of a direction that an Obama administration would want the department to take,' said Matthew Levitt, a senior counterterrorism and intelligence fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Levitt said he thought it was important to have someone with executive experience at the helm.

'Clearly, they wanted someone who has experience leading a large organization,' he said. 'I think executive experience is critical in a bureaucracy like DHS, which is not only huge but young, and thats one of the things she brings.

Levitt said that the 22 component agencies that make up DHS have 'old, competing cultures,' and need a strong executive to bind them and plot out where the department will go in the future.

Mark Krikorian, executive director, Center for Immigration Studies, a group that supports decreased immigration, says the pick could be a clue to future policy planning.

'It could mean that the Obama administration picked an immigration person for this job because they want to burnish their pro-enforcement credentials to make a more plausible case for amnesty down the road,' he said.

From Krikorians point of view, 'Shes the most plausible candidate a Democrat administration could have picked,' but suggested her 'hawkish image' on immigration was undeserved.

'Shes in a Republican-leaning state where voters want tight immigration control, so shes postured in a hawkish manner, declaring a state of emergency on the border in 2005 and supporting use of the National Guard.'

But, he said, Napolitano has not been a strong supporter of more border fencing, vetoed a bill that would have made illegal immigration a violation of the states trespassing law, and signed an employer sanctions bill only reluctantly.

The man Napolitano would replace, DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff , was more upbeat.

'Ive known Janet Napolitano for 15 years,' he said. 'I was a U.S. attorney with her and I worked extensively with her as governor of Arizona. I think shes an outstanding governor, she was a great U.S. attorney and a terrific friend. I have nothing but good things to say about her.'

Eye on the Border

Napolitano was among the first to call for using the National Guard to police illegal immigration across U.S. borders.

While she has not been a booster of large-scale border fencing projects, her state has led the way in using E-Verify an online system operated jointly by the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration to check the work status of new hires and penalizing businesses that hire illegal employees.

At least one public interest group that keeps a keen eye on border policies said Napolitano will be a welcome addition to the Obama administration.

'There couldnt have been a better pick for Department of Homeland Security than Gov. Napolitano,' said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, a group that favors a broad overhaul of immigration policy. 'She has displayed a clear understanding of the challenges and opportunities faced by our immigration system.

Jeff Addicott, director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Marys University, said he hopes Napolitanos legal background will result in her considering the legal implications of DHS actions, which he said the Bush administration often seemed to ignore.

'I dont think [Obama] has the expertise, frankly, in national security, so hopefully, hell surround himself with people who do have the expertise, so Im glad to see he has a lawyer looking at homeland,' he said. 'She needs to take the helm and think of all of these national security issues in terms of the law.'

Key Republican lawmakers offered generally positive responses to the potential nomination, first reported by CNN but not yet confirmed by the Obama transition team. Senior Democrats were mum, awaiting official word.

Joseph I. Lieberman , I-Conn., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said he prefers to wait until he hears from the Obama camp about the nomination. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., also refused comment.

Peter T. King, ranking Republican on the House Homeland panel, wasnt as bashful.

'I look forward to working with Gov. Napolitano in a bipartisan way on all homeland security issues, particularly counterterrorism and border security,' said the New York congressman, who also served as the chairman of the committee from September 2005 to December 2006.

'Gov. Napolitanos experience as the former U.S. attorney for Arizona, Arizonas attorney general, and as governor warrants her rapid confirmation by the Senate and I hope she is quickly confirmed,' said fellow Arizonan, GOP Sen. John McCain .


Arizona governor critical of federal border policy
By Jacques Billeaud
The Associated Press, November 21, 2008

Phoenix (AP) — If she becomes President-elect Barack Obama's homeland security chief, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano will find herself in a position to change some of the federal immigration policies that she has railed against.

As leader of a state with the busiest illegal path into the United States, Napolitano has complained repeatedly that the federal government had shirked its duty to secure the border and therefore dumped the costs of immigration on Arizona.

After declaring a state of emergency due to problems at the border, the Democrat proposed putting National Guard troops at the international boundary, four months before President Bush took up a similar idea.

She tried, in vain, to get the feds to pay $500 million for the unreimbursed costs of imprisoning illegal immigrants convicted of crimes. And she complained that a federal agency responsible for investigating smuggling failed to adequately staff its Arizona operation and had a revolving door of leadership.

'We are going to step up and protect our citizens when the federal government fails them but this is a federal problem, and we expect the federal government to do its part,' the Democratic governor said in announcing a $100 million state immigration plan in 2006.

She is Obama's likely pick to run the Homeland Security Department. While the department is responsible for a range of duties unrelated to immigration such as protecting the president and coordinating disaster response it runs three immigration agencies.

Supporters in Arizona say Napolitano appreciates the complexity of immigration. Critics say she tries to straddle a fine political line in a state frustrated by its leaky border.

Unlike her immediate predecessors, Napolitano faced heavy pressure to confront the state's border problems, even though immigration had long been considered the sole responsibility of the federal government.

Early on, she resisted initial efforts pushed by conservative Republicans in the state Legislature for a state crackdown on illegal immigration. But she went on to build a record on immigration. To many people in immigration circles, her views on the subject are difficult to pigeonhole.

Democratic state Rep. Steve Gallardo of Phoenix, an advocate for expanded guest worker programs for immigrants, said Napolitano's immigration views strike a balance between border security and practical attempts at confronting the economic motive to sneak across the border. 'She has knowledge of what needs to be done,' Gallardo said.

Republican state Rep. John Kavanagh of Fountain Hills, whose day labor restrictions proposal was vetoed by Napolitano last year, said it would be useful for a homeland security boss to have lived in a border state, but philosophy on confronting immigration woes is a far more necessary quality.

The governor is neither an immigration hawk, nor an open-border advocate, Kavanagh said, pointing out that she wanted National Guard troops at the border but also vetoed an expansion of the list of government benefits denied to immigrants. 'Her sympathy for illegal aliens reduces her enthusiasm for border security,' Kavanagh said.

Hector Yturralde, president of the Hispanic civil rights group Somos America and a critic of Napolitano's approval of a state law that bans the hiring illegal immigrants, said Napolitano's nuanced immigration positions are a reflection of being the governor in a state where her Democratic party is outnumbered by Republicans.

'She is not a hard-liner on that issue one way or the other,' Yturralde said.


Arizona's Napolitano Favored For Homeland-Security Post
By Cam Simpson and Miriam Jordan
The Wall Street Journal, November 21, 2008
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122722537645445949.html?mod=googlenews_wsj [Pay Site]

Napolitano: Send Guard back to the border
The Associated Press, November 21, 2008

Shift toward border enforcement?
If Napolitano gets security post, immigration issue may take new tack
By Richard S. Dunham and Kyle Pendergast
The Houston Chronicle, November 20, 2008

Homeland Security pick signals moderate immigration approach
By Daniel Gonzlez and Sean Holstege
The Arizona Republic (Phoenix), November 21, 2008

Arizona Governor Napolitano tapped as new Homeland Security chief
By Ben Arnoldy
The Christian Science Monitor, November 21, 2008

Top Obama adviser: Napolitano is Homeland Security pick
By Matthew Benson
The Arizona Republic (Phoenix), November 20, 2008

Napolitano often critical of Homeland Security
By Howard Fischer
The Capitol Media Services, November 20, 2008

Experts praise Obama's choice to lead Homeland Security
By Margaret Talev
The Knight Ridder Washington Bureau, November 20, 2008