Napolitano Transformed

Nov 25th, 2008 | By Michel Marizco | Category: General News, Immigration, Politics
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The rumors started almost immediately after Barack Obama won the election; Arizona's governor was going to head up his Homeland Security Department.

The job's a dicey one; Janet Napolitano would become the third director of Homeland Security since 2001, following former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge and former judge Michael Chertoff. Napolitano's tenure as a border governor is the usual reason most cited as her qualification for the job. Frankly, I don't see why, unless they're basing that notion on who's made the most noise.

Homeland Security's the current fair-haired child of the U.S. law enforcement agencies. It asked for a $50.5 billion budget for next year and employs 200,000 people. At a glance, Napolitano looks like a great choice to head up the agency. The former federal prosecutor won the governorship on a platform that the border is a federal problem and she spent her first term insisting on that notion.

Then her second term came up. By then, Arizona was in a very, very different condition - and not for the better.

In 2002, the Arizona-Sonora border was barely beginning to make the news as the hole-in-the-fence crisis it was evolving into. Apprehensions of illegal migrants were fairly evenly distributed along the 2,000-mile border and the deaths of immigrants were just beginning to be documented accurately. Narcotics trafficking was as prevalent as ever but Arizona's border was, overall, at peace.

By 2003, the situation had begun to change. The barbed-wire border had become a national embarrassment; the militias were on the move again, stirring up in southeastern Arizona and beginning their clamor. By 2004, Arizona hit a dubious distinction; 51 percent of illegal migrant apprehensions made border wide had happened in the U.S. Border Patrol's Tucson Sector. In sheer tonnage alone, Arizona had become the No. 1 narco-trafficking corridor along the border; hundreds of people were dying in the desert every year, more than any other entry way into the United States. Border Patrol SUVs were chasing down renegade smugglers carrying dozen-people loads in packed trucks. Vigilantes were boasting of catching 30, 40 people at a time, causing one memorable Customs agent to sniff, "I can hit a bucket of balls into the desert and hit more people than that."

By 2005, a curious situation had presented itself in Phoenix. Clearly, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Arizona head, Roberto Medina, had ticked someone off. Napolitano and Phoenix-area sheriff Joe Arpaio eviscerated the man, complaining to his boss, Chertoff, that he was arrogant and uncooperative with state and county officials. That sparked a series of appointments and reappointments within the top immigration bureau in Arizona. There was one detail about Medina that's always gone ignored - Napolitano's state police and the Phoenix city police liked Medina and thought they worked well together.

Then Napolitano followed New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson's lead, declaring a state of emergency along the border. That one stuck in my memory the best because the $3 million she freed up were supposed to go to "combating criminal gangs" and migrant smugglers. Instead, the money went to night vision for sheriff's deputies and - I could not make this up - clearing a field of weeds out toward the California border.

By 2006, the governor was calling for the National Guard on the line and a year later, she signed Arizona's E-Verify law, the toughest immigration law on the books. That same year, she gave her state police the go-ahead to train with the Feds and enforce federal immigration laws.

I've watched the governor transform from a dismissive leader who let the Feds flounder at the border for half her gubernatorial career to a hard woman who wrapped her career around border enforcement.

Now, if only someone could demonstrate to me how any of these implementations, new federal agency heads, state police enforcing federal laws in Phoenix, national guard troops on the border, the weeds mowed down in Yuma, employment legislation have made a lick of difference beyond furthering the governor's career, I might buy into the notion that this new administration is going to be any different from the current one.

Leave a comment »

  1. It’s almost like they don’t want to become too efficient; then they wouldn’t have a reason to keep their high paying (bad economy proof) job.
    Years ago I asked my Spanish instructor in college why we couldn’t learn the preterit (past tense)? “Oh no”, she said “We’re studying the present tense now, the past tense comes two months from now”. It dawned on me; teachers are a lot like bureaucrats, being too efficient cuts into your job security.

  2. Homeland Security becoming transformed with a lady’s touch? Is Ms. Napolitano destined to become a new “Iron Lady”? The decisions to made by our President-elect’s choice for this key post will be interesting. I wish her wisdom and courage to do what will be best for America and a reminder that the liberties guaranteed to the People by our Constitution and the Bill of Rights, should never be abandoned, abridged or abused.

  3. reports that she (Napolitano) opposes the fence and has Cecilia Munoz of La Raza working for her.

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