Cross-posted on Huffington Post
First things first, kudos to the President-elect on his likely pick for Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano (D) is a superb choice to lead DHS, which-I think we can all agree-is ready for some real leadership. But why exactly did Obama choose Napolitano for this task? MSNBC’s Mark Murray concluded that the pick hinged on immigration:
The pick of Napolitano indicates that immigration may have been Obama’s primary concern in making his decision on this post.
It’s hard to isolate which of Napolitano’s credentials won the day. What’s clear that, when it comes to immigration, Janet gets it. As Governor of a major border state, Napolitano has had to make tough decisions to deal with the consequences of our dysfunctional immigration laws. She’s managed to do so while maintaining record approval ratings. And that’s in a state often labeled “ground zero” of the immigration debate.
There’s no doubt she would bring this experience to bear as head of DHS, which runs Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). As Governor, she held fast in support of comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level. Her kind of reform would secure our borders and bring immigrant workers out of the shadows (and onto the tax rolls).
I can just picture the Michael Chertoff equivalent of the recent Condoleezza Rice memo, “Welcome to My World, Barack.” (In the memo, Rice lamented, “Comprehensive immigration reform is the one thing I wish we’d been able to do, and it’s going to have to be done, and I hope it’s done soon.”)
The title of Chertoff’s memo? May I suggest:
Welcome to My World, Janet… Now, Please Restore Some Dignity to It.
Let’s face it: both DHS and ICE have seen their dignity dive-bomb under Chertoff’s rule. After immigration reform was murdered by anti-immigrant forces in 2007, ICE took matters into its own hands.
The agency’s showy immigration raids have focused on rounding up immigrant workers and tearing them from their families to generate splashy headlines. Of course, this comes at the expense of not prosecuting dangerous criminals or unscrupulous employers.
But rounding people up is just the beginning. Recent New York Times and Washington Post exposés have revealed the outrageous deaths of seventy immigrant detainees, many of whom died because of poor conditions in privately-traded, expanding ICE detention centers.
What’s more, ICE has been slamming workers with trumped up identity theft charges and executing mass trials that have trampled our deeply-held values of due process and basic justice. The Supreme Court is set to investigate one such identity theft case next year.
Finally, we can’t ignore former ICE head Julie Myers’ moments of sheer incompetence, stupidity, and apparent racism. These only served to further tarnish ICE’s reputation. Most recently, her Operation Scheduled Departure, a “self-deportation” plan that netted eight (8) unlawful immigrants in total, was a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars.
Incidentally, Ms. Myers scheduled her own departure from the Agency right after Mr. Obama was elected.
If Napolitano’s likely appointment to Secretary of Homeland Security is anything, it is a welcome departure from business as usual at DHS. It is a chance for a courageous leader to restore dignity to a highly politicized agency that has spiraled out of control.