Forget Secretary of State, Gov. Richardson should be Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security

LatinaLista — The Latino blogosphere has been busily speculating about the chances of Gov. Bill Richardson being appointed Secretary of State in President-elect Obama’s administration. It goes without saying that the governor is qualified for the position but word is that he faces stiff competition — ”Sen. Kerry, Richard Holbrooke, a former senior U.S. diplomat; Sen. Richard Lugar, a Republican foreign-policy guru from Indiana; Sen. Chuck Hagel, the Nebraska Republican who is retiring; and Sen. Hillary Clinton.”

Caricature of New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson
Yet, though the position of Secretary of State is generating a lot of buzz and is probably considered the crown of all political appointments, that’s not the position I would like to see Gov. Richardson occupy. At this time in our country when people are starting to come down from the high of the Obama win and feeling again the painful divisiveness of punitive Bush policies, I feel Richardson can better serve the country and help heal it as the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

The secretary is responsible for running a huge department encompassing a grab bag of agencies. These include a medium-sized Navy (the U.S. Coast Guard), an elite plainclothes presidential bodyguard regiment (the U.S. Secret Service), a substantial prison system (detention facilities run by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau) and massive uniformed battalions that police airports and land borders. Not to mention the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a bureau that processes citizenship applications and the department’s own intelligence office.

While at first glance, it may not be appealing to someone who likes the glamour of handling global negotiations, the opportunity has arisen, because of the mismanagement of its current secretary, to expand the parameters of this department to include not just talking with our border neighbors but all those countries whose citizens still come in search of something better.
The next DHS Secretary has as big a task in front of him or her as President Obama has. In many ways, this position is more volatile than Secretary of State because it deals with trying to heal our own nation where diplomatic protocol doesn’t exist to restrain people to act in a civil manner — just read the comments section on Latina Lista or any Latino political blog.
The DHS position needs someone who can communicate with the largest group of people targeted by current immigration policies and the subject of DHS enforcement — Spanish-speakers. Right now, the list of possible candidates for DHS Secretary is rumored to be:

Los Angeles Police Department chief William Bratton; New York police commissioner Ray Kelly, who under President Clinton ran U.S. Customs; Rep Jane Harman, who chairs a House Homeland Security subcommittee on intelligence; James Lee Witt, a former Arkansas emergency-management and FEMA chief under administrations led by Bill Clinton; and Michael Sheehan, a former top federal and NYPD terrorism expert

While each of these candidates brings their own unique qualifications, the Department of Homeland Security needs someone at the helm who does have (dare I say) executive experience in combination with negotiating skills, ready-made leadership qualities and a strong sense of what is right and wrong when it comes to federal policy.
In handling issues of immigration enforcement, Gov. Richardson brings a tough compassion to the job because he intimately knows the situations of the people most targeted currently by DHS.
The Department of Homeland Security, like several other agencies, presents new opportunities for the next person in charge to remake it into an agency that is effective, respected and respectful.
These are qualities that Gov. Richardson already brings to the table and they are qualities needed to start a national healing.

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16 Comments

  1. Sandra said:

    That is the last government position that Richardson should fill. His biasness on the immigration issue would cloud his judgement.

  2. Texano78704 said:

    The Department of Homeland Security (what a creepy name!) definitely needs an executive in charge with a broad skill set. I would have to agree that Governor Richardson is someone that would fill that bill.
    As for “biasness,” I doubt that being a seamstress is part of his particular skill set. How about an example of bias on the issue of immigration, before casting aspersions?
    If you suggest that Governor Richardson’s bias lies in his support of comprehensive immigration reform, then it is a bias that the majority of US citizens also hold.

  3. Mike in NYC said:

    I don’t consider “compassion” a positive quality in a candidate for a position with the word “security” in its title.
    And said candidate should have no familial relationship whatsoever with a country that is supplying us with the lion’s share of illegal immigrants.
    Really, LL, do try and conceal your ethnic agenda just a little bit, OK?

  4. Marisa Treviño said:

    I disagree with both you and Sandra. Just because Gov. Richardson happens to be Latino doesn’t mean that this position would “cloud his judgement.” In fact, I think it qualifies him all the more and would make him a far more effective secretary because he does understand the culture, knows how to communicate effectively with his counterparts in Mexico and in South America and can create a much stronger relationship with these countries and Mexico, in turn, thwarting any infiltration of real terrorists.
    The bottom line is that we need someone who can communicate with our southern neighbors, since as you correctly pointed out Mike, that is where the “lion’s share” of undocumented immigrants come from. We have seen and are seeing that walling us off from our southern neighbors is neither effective or financially and environmentally feasible.
    You accuse me of an ethnic agenda? I would have to say that I sense some racial biasness on both your parts because you can’t see the qualities that Richardson brings to the job but you automatically assume that he would be corrupt in it. Or am I wrong?
    As far as compassion, it is definitely needed as well as a complete overhaul of the department. In Latino communities across the country where ICE agents have stormed into homes and traumatized families needlessly, this department has no respect from people and suffers from a reputation more akin to Gestapo methods. Why? Because the guy and gal running those operations of immigration enforcement lacked compassion for the people they were targeting. A twist on the old saying might be, “You get more cooperation with honey rather than vinegar.”

  5. Sandra said:

    Someone in charge of Homeland Security should adhere strictly to our immigration laws and not take a certain personal position on it that is contrary to what Homeland Security’s job is. That is biasness. Richardson clearly has taken a position on illegal immigration contrary to the right and obligation to enforce our immgration laws. He should be disqualified from even being considered for any position with Homeland Security based on that.

  6. Marisa Treviño said:

    Sandra, As someone who has had to exemplify the rule of law in his state as governor, Bill Richardson, not to my knowledge, has ever taken a personal stand on immigration that was contrary to current law. Again, your biasness against Richardson because he is Latino is showing through unless you can support that wild assumption with fact.

  7. Sandra said:

    If you are trying to claim that Richardson isn’t an illegal alien sympathizer you are badly mistaken. He has stated so himself and referred to them as “his people”.
    For the record I have no problem with Hispanics who respect the laws of this country and don’t put their own ethnic kind above the rule of law and advocate rewarding them for breaking them. So don’t use broad generalizations about how I feel about Hispanics. I just don’t care for the ethnocentric or the illegal kind.

  8. Marisa Treviño said:

    Simply referring to other Latinos as “his people” does not imply that any laws would be broken by him in observing current immigration law, be they what they are. No, Sandra, you are using broad generalizations to erroneously slander his character. To support your statement that he would actually break current immigration law please link to any statements that he has made.

  9. Sandra said:

    He would be biased because of his ethnicity and he has already stated he is an illegal alien sympathizer. Therefore he should be disqualified for conflict of interest.

  10. Grandma said:

    “Simply referring to other Latinos as “his people” does not imply that any laws would be broken by him in observing current immigration law, be they what they are. No, Sandra, you are using broad generalizations to erroneously slander his character. To support your statement that he would actually break current immigration law please link to any statements that he has made.
    Gov Richardson allows illegal aliens to have drivers licenses in NM contrary to federal law recently upheld by the court of appeals.

  11. Marisa Treviño said:

    Sandra, That’s a highly insulting statement you’ve made and, again, with no credibility. Do better than this please. What you’re saying is like saying that all the good law enforcement officials who are African American or Latino should be disqualified from the force because they would sympathize with those criminals who constitute either category — when we’ve actually seen the opposite.

  12. Sandra said:

    Oh yes, I do have a point and that is that Richardson would not be an unbiased head of HS. It is obvious by the statements that he makes.

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