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Anxious doubts persist that Janet Napolitano is the right choice for Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security

LatinaLista — A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll released yesterday shows most people are giving high marks to President-elect Obama’s Cabinet choices.

Americans are “projecting their hopes” for the new president, says Charles Franklin, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin in Madison who studies polling, but they will expect concrete results to follow.

U.S. president-elect Barack Obama, right, introduces his national security team nominees from left, Eric Holder, attorney general, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, head of Homeland Security, Robert Gates, continuing as secretary of defence, vice-president-elect Joe Biden, Senator Hillary Clinton, secretary of state, retired marine Gen. James Jones, national security adviser, and Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, during a news conference in Chicago.
(Source: Jeff Haynes, Reuters)

That expectation is not only true of Obama but his Cabinet picks too. While it’s understood that the “buck stops” with Obama and Cabinet officials only enact the will of the President and law of the land, it’s also understood that each Cabinet member does wield a certain amount of influence with the president regarding the department they oversee.
For that reason there is cautious optimism among immigrant rights activists that Obama made the right choice when choosing Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano as his Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
With Obama’s oversight and Napolitano’s experience, there is hope that the two can offset each other’s weaknesses and repair the negative and reckless treatment of people that DHS has perpetuated these last few years.
Yet before that happens, Napolitano must answer the hard questions about her past that is causing some to say she is a sorry pick for Secretary of the DHS.

When President-elect Obama praised the qualities of Gov. Napolitano as the perfect choice to succeed Michael Chertoff as Secretary of the DHS, he said the following:

Named one of America’s Top Five Governors by Time magazine and one of America’s top women leaders by Newsweek, Janet Napolitano stands out as a leader in developing innovative solutions to some of our country’s greatest challenges.
As Governor of Arizona, she’s fought for quality schools, affordable healthcare, sensible economic development, a safe homeland, a secure border, and a government that is run efficiently and responsibly. She led the successful effort to create a new grade level in public school by offering voluntary full day kindergarten to every Arizona family. She raised teacher pay, expanded access to health insurance, and saved seniors millions on prescription drugs.
Her homeland security background is extensive: as U.S. Attorney for Arizona, Napolitano led the Arizona portion of the domestic terrorism investigation into the Oklahoma City bombing; as Attorney General, she helped write the law to break up human smuggling rings; and as Governor, she implemented the first state homeland security strategy in the nation and opened the first state counter-terrorism center. She is a leader in coordinating federal, state, local and bi-national homeland security efforts, having presided over large-scale disaster preparedness exercises to ensure well-crafted and functional emergency plans.
Napolitano was the first governor to call for the National Guard to assist at the U.S. – Mexico border at federal expense, and is a leading national voice for comprehensive immigration reform. The past chair of the National Governors Association- the first woman in history to hold this position- Janet Napolitano was re-elected in 2006 in a landslide victory as Arizona’s 21st Governor. Prior to her election as Governor of Arizona, Napolitano served one term as Arizona Attorney General and four years as U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona.

Yet, as with anyone in high political office, opposing viewpoints will always surface.
For example, an article that appeared in the Phoenix New Times titled Janet Napolitano’s Sorry Service in Arizona Makes Her a Terrible Choice for Homeland Security Secretary outlines some of the very reservations we have of the new Secretary.
The list is too long to detail but suffice it to say that if Gov. Napolitano was truly in favor of meaningful immigration reform would she have militarized the Arizona-Mexico border? Would she have silently stood by while Sheriff Arpaio raided Mesa City Hall at night to hunt for undocumented workers? Would she have condoned with her silence the passage of hard-lined punitive state legislation targeting undocumented immigrants?
Next to Obama’s economic team, there will be a huge contingent waiting to see what Napolitano does as she takes office. It’s safe to say that she will not be afforded any kind of honeymoon period. Time is too precious and as the following letter indicates, patience is running thin as well.
The Rio Grande Guardian reports that El Paso leaders have written to President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team urging the border wall project to be stopped.
Here below is the full letter:

Dear President-Elect Obama:
All along the U.S.-Mexico border, our local economies thrive due to our close relationship with Mexico. In fact, in 2007 alone, the U.S.-Mexico export and import trade totaled $347.3 billion. Texas alone trades more with Mexico than all the European Union combined. At a time when our country faces a severe financial crisis, we believe it is irresponsible to spend billions of dollars on a wall that will not only scar our environmental landscape but also damage our relationship with communities and countries across the Americas. The $6.3 billion[1] that the federal government plans to spend on the border wall would be better spent on developing the infrastructure of the border region.
The recent appointment of Governor Janet Napolitano clearly signifies the importance of immigration reform to your administration. I sincerely hope that your plan will not include the main component of immigration reform pursued by the Bush administration and DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff—the border wall.
Already, in churches and homes from Chihuahua to Buenos Aires, these walls are called “muros de odio,” symbols of a new hatred for which America is now known. For centuries, America has served as a symbol of freedom and democracy throughout the world. How long will it take for our great nation to repair the ill will that these walls have already engendered around the world?
Border walls are currently under construction in all four southern border states, and hundreds more miles of walls called for by the Secure Fence Act are in the planning stages. In April 2008, for the fifth time, Secretary Chertoff used the power granted to him by the Real ID Act to waive laws along the border so that walls and roads could be built without regard to public health and safety or environmental protection.
Already, erosion has begun to degrade the Tijuana River Estuary, a direct result of the canyon that DHS has filled in above it. The border wall between Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora, caused severe flooding, which threatened life and damaged property.
In Texas, condemnation proceedings have been initiated against border municipalities and landowners, in spite of the fact that the Consolidated Fiscal 2008 Appropriations Act obliges homeland security officials to consult with the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of Agriculture, states, local governments, Indian tribes, and property owners in communities affected by the wall.
During an October 2006 visit to The University of Texas–Permian Basin, the former Soviet President and Nobel Prize winner Mikhail Gorbachev commented on the importance of innovative ideas to control the flow of immigration and argued against the building of a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border. In a reference to President Reagan’s 1987 visit to the Berlin Wall, when Reagan told Mr. Gorbachev, “this wall should be torn down,” Mr. Gorbachev said, “I don’t think the U.S. is so weak and so much lacks confidence as not to be able to find a different solution… Now the United States seems to be building almost the Wall of China between itself and this other nation with which it has been associated for many decades and has had cooperation and interaction with.”
For our country to prosper, we must lead the way in the safe, fast and secure movement of people and products in a post-9/11 world. To achieve success, our borders need adequate staffing, state-of-the-art technology, modern infrastructure and effective enforcement. As Governor Napolitano aptly stated in a 2007 address to the National Press Club:

I also have refused to agree that a wall by itself is an answer…As I often say, ‘You show me a 50-foot wall, and I’ll show you a 51-foot ladder’…I also refuse to concede that illegal immigration is a political winner for those who simplistically suggest we can just “seal” the border…Here are some of the key elements of a real border plan: The first is the development of innovative, technology-driven border control between the ports of entry. Boots on the ground definitely help, but we can shore up our border gaps with ground-based sensors, radar, and unmanned aerial vehicles for wide-area intrusive-detection. Any combination of the above will work far better than any 10 or 20 or 50 miles of wall. The Department of Homeland Security is now installing this kind of technology. They need increased funding to sustain their efforts.

We ask you to stop building muros de odio on our southern border—let us stop building these ill-conceived walls founded in current notions of racism. As the next President of the United States, we hope your administration will lead the U.S. to once again be the beacon of hope to the world.
Let us make the case for safer, faster ports to move people and products in a 21st Century world. And most of all, let us work together, strengthened by the proud legacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy to reach out to our neighbors, family and friends in all the Americas to build lasting bridges of friendship, safety and prosperity—not walls of hatred and division.
With hope,

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  • Rev. Timothy D. Nichols
    December 3, 2008 at 8:01 pm

    President OBAMA
    Tear down these walls!

  • Sandra
    December 4, 2008 at 7:49 am

    So securing our borders is in direct conflict with any CIR? Why the objection to her attempting to secure her state’s borders? Since there hasn’t been any CIR passed as yet are you saying that no attempts should be made to secure our borders until or if a CIR is passed? We would still need to secure our borders afterwards anyway.
    Why the objection to enforcing our immigration laws until or if a CIR is passed? Aren’t we bound by our laws until or if they are changed?
    The U.S. doesn’t have a right to limit the number of immigrants coming into our country and make sure they have papers to do so? We don’t have a right to protect our borders from criminals and terrorists? If immigrants don’t come through proper channels, how are we to know if they aren’t either of the two above.
    I really fear for our country that we have citizens in this country that care more about their ethnic group than the safety, security and laws of their own country.

    December 4, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    Got that right,Sandra. A little known fact, that is not getting a lot of media coverage, is that some Muslim prayer rugs were recently discovered in the piles of debris left behind by people crossing into Texas from Mexico. That fact alone does not suggest that the rugs were used by terrorists, but it does indicate Middle Easterners are fronting as Mexicans to enter the U.S. illegally. Why take the chance? Put up a barrier to at least slow them down or discourage them from even attempting to illegally enter.
    The U.S. ecomony is causing many of the illegal aliens to return to their native countries and has slowed the flow of those that see no benefit in illegally immigrating here. So, a struggling economy does have an up side.

  • Mike in NYC
    December 4, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    So Marisa is worried that the Secretary of Homeland Security-to-be is not sufficiently concerned about the “rights” of invaders?

  • Sandra
    December 7, 2008 at 9:31 am

    EOT, the thing is also is that the border wall is only going to be 700 miles long on an over 2,000 mile border. So why the objection? It is only being built where it is the most porous and vulnerable and is not only being built to deter illegal entry but to greatly assist the Border Patrol. What loyal, law abiding citizen would object to that unless they have an ulterior motive and selfish, anti-American agenda?

  • Michaela
    December 17, 2008 at 10:18 am

    There is info out that suggests there may be terrorist cells in as many as ten U.S. cities ready for their signal to detonate. But hey, just let em all in because we sure don’t want to offend our “friends” sneaking into our country for God knows what reason. I am deeply afraid this country did not learn one lesson from 9/11.

  • anon
    February 13, 2009 at 11:05 am

    This wall is just another example of how billions of dollars can be spent on something that will cost us to maintain and later destroy. What will a wall accomplish?!? Are these people serious?!?!? This will be symbolic for the biggest Bush failure. WE LIVE IN A DIGITAL WORLD WITH PLANES, SHIPS, ETC…PLEASE THINK.

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