Napolitano's record -as a former U.S. attorney, Arizona governor and now as the DHS secretary- shows that when it comes to immigration she bases her decisions in an obsolete legislation and radical views, rather than caring about human rights and the safety of vulnerable individuals, including women and children.
When president Barack Obama appointed Janet Napolitano, I knew that an immigration legislation reform –an electoral promise made by Obama as a candidate- wasn’t going to be accomplished very easily. Napolitano hasn’t showed commitment to take on that important step, and she represents the continuation of the failed Bush policies only now presented in a different way, as she said to the LA Times recently:
Some of this is not Bush policy. It's the law. The underlying complaint is that we are simply enforcing the law. Because people are unhappy with the underlying law doesn't mean that we are not going to enforce it… What we are doing is smart and I think very effective enforcement.Meet the DHS Secretary
Never married and with not family or children of her own, Janet Ann Napolitano is rumored to be a lesbian -nothing to criticize about-and she shares a militarized and paranoid vision on what the U.S. government should do in order to protect its borders, and mostly when it comes to undocumented immigration. Her obsession with securing borders got into ridiculous levels when she recently said that the September 11 attackers entered the U.S. from Canada.
Photo by L.A. Times
What secretary Napolitano doesn’t want to admit publicly is that the same anti-immigrant policies she defends and enforces faithfully, are part of the problem she pretends to solve. To understand the current DHS secretary is important to know about her life, her career in politics coming from the U.S. federal Judiciary system, her work in Arizona and her background as an attorney:
Napolitano was born in New York of parents of Italian heritage; but raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is a registered Democrat politician and a two-term governor of Arizona, from 2002 to 2008.
In 1993, Napolitano was appointed by president Bill Clinton as the U.S. General Attorney for the District of Arizona, one year before NAFTA was signed -the free traded deal that increased 10 times undocumented immigration from Mexico to the U.S- and in 1998 she ran as Arizona Attorney General, an office she held until 2002 when she was elected as the Arizona governor –with the support of racist sheriff Joe Arpaio. She was reelected in 2006 by a huge margin after she proved her supports for a tougher immigration enforcement, including building the infamous Border Wall.
Janet Napolitano was appointed as the Secretary of Homeland Security by president Barack Obama, assuming office on January 21, 2009. This action was a bid disappointment for many advocated of a comprehensive immigration reform because Napolitano is seeing as a tough enforcer not a humanist reformer.
Arizona: God enriches?
Arizona is said to be the fastest growing state in the U.S. and is also one of the youngest. A land of Indigenous peoples invaded first by the Hispanics in the XVI century, it became part of Mexico in 1821 dividing the Tohono O’odham indigenous people land between two countries. In 1848 the U.S. invaded the region and took it over, but Arizona became an official state in 1912, only 97 years ago.
With a population of 58.4% whites in 2008 -according to the U.S. Census- but with an increasing brown community who are Indigenous peoples both American and Mexicans (wrongly called Hispanics), Arizona is now a true laboratory state for militarized anti-immigration U.S. policies, and a point where drugs, guns and human trafficking occur every day.
The main concern of anti immigrant racist groups in Arizona might be a result of their location, right next to Mexico. They might not want that state to become like California, where white people are now a minority. But it’s already late because over half of Arizona’s children are non-white.
Racist people in Arizona –and their allies- have forgotten that white people are descendants of European immigrants, many of whom came to this country undocumented. This is perhaps the case of Janet Napolitano herself as she descends from Italian immigrants who faced the same racism her policies are promoting today, in the days when Arizona was created.
Last but not least, Arizona is used as an important base for mafias involved in illegal trafficking of people, guns and drugs. This increasing business is destroying the Mexican state and killing thousands of Mexican citizens:
As the number 1 user of illegal drugs in the world and the largest provider of illegal weapons to Mexican Drug Cartels, the U.S. has culpability in these Drug Wars. Law-enforcement officials say gun dealers in Arizona and other southern border states provide three-quarters (MSNBC reports 95%) of the black-market firearms to Mexico, a nation that strictly controls gun ownership. Phoenix is considered a hub for illegal exportation of AK-47s, SKS rifles, .50-caliber rifles and other weapons favored by narcotics gangsters.Manufacturers of armaments are behind all international wars, conflicts and the illegal use of arms. They are precisely those are who support strongly the Republic party and conservative Democrats like Napolitano.
Napolitano’s record: expensive and racist anti-immigrant policies
Janet Napolitano might be hiding something behind her apparent devotion to the law. Her actions show a racist pattern causing innocent non-white people to suffer the consequences of the DHS inhuman policies, every day.
Most of the people who are incarcerated, tortured, deported by the U.S. government are both Indigenous and Afro descendant peoples –some of them even are U.S. citizens- and they have to endure inhumane conditions in detention centers, including children. It’s the right thing to do because that is the law, Napolitano thinks so.
As the Arizona governor, Janet Napolitano has supported –by actions more than words- the ridiculously expensive and useless Border Wall, a 700 miles security complex of fences, cameras, and virtual technology that would cost over $49 billion dollars to build and maintain over a 25-year life cycle. This wall initiative was included in the Secure Fence Act passed by George W. Bush in October 2006, with strong support from Congress.
This wall has proven to reduce undocumented immigration, but it has failed to stop it. Initially, Janet Napolitano showed concern about the wall but her actions showed differently. Her record on immigration as a governor of Arizona is praised by the conservative UVA School of Law:
More than 2,400 National Guard troops now man the shared border with Mexico, the frontlines of the war on illegal immigration. While Arizona Republican Party members accuse their governor of being soft on immigration, Napolitano has entered into aggressive law enforcement agreements with the governor of Sonora, Mexico, the state that borders Arizona. She has declared a state of emergency in certain Arizona counties so that troops could man the border. She has worked with President Bush and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff on the Secure Border Initiative, the nation’s comprehensive multi-year plan to secure America’s borders and reduce illegal migration. Preferring substance over symbol, she says of the proposed 700-mile U.S-Mexico border fence approved by Congress, “You show me a 50-foot wall, and I’ll show you a 51-foot ladder.”Napolitano went on to promptly enforce the Secure Border Initiative, not only as governor but today as the head of DHS. The blog No Border Wall reports this month:
So far, Congress has given the Department of Homeland Security $3.1 billion. […] As of July 17, DHS claims to have completed 331 miles of “pedestrian fencing” and 302 miles of vehicle barriers.Of course most of this funding will go to private contractors –Republican allied get into the picture again- and instead of stopping undocumented immigrants, it will kill civilians.
287g Program and Joe Arpaio
Janet Napolitano has openly supported sheriff Joe Arpaio, who abuses of mostly-Native immigrants in a daily basis, by incarcerating them under abusive conditions in Arizona's Maricopa county. Arpaio has been sued over racial profiling of Indigenous people called Latinos, reported the ACLU.
Sheriff Arpaio is acting under the legal frame of the racist 287g Program -a legislation passed by the Clinton administration- which directs federal funds to local police in order to enforce immigration law, while racially targeting immigrants mostly Native peoples. Please read more of the horrendous stories behind racist Arpaio abuses and ask yourself why is the Obama administration allows this to happen.
Meanwhile, the Arpaio model is being copied in other cities across the U.S. Only after protests from civil rights groups, the U.S. Congress held a hearing last April on police abuses enforcing immigration laws and the sheriff Arpaio case, but nothing was done to change such legislation.
The abuses of the 287g Program are summarized by a report of late blogger and political columnist Tim A. Chavez –rest in peace- when a mother and her newborn child were separated and hurt by 287g in Nashville, Tennessee. Even though reports of abuses of this kind are dennounced all over the country, neither secretary Napolitano nor president Obama have stopped this program, but they are actually expanding it:
Napolitano revised the rules of the 287(g) program, a federal program that authorizes local, state and county police forces to do certain immigration enforcement actions in coordination with ICE, the federal government’s immigration enforcement agency. The revision was intended to deal with widespread complaints about the program encouraging police to harass and racially profile Latino people, with the well known situation of Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, being the tip of the iceberg. Napolitano also announced that the program will be expanded to include more police departments. But it is difficult enough under the best of circumstances to prevent police from engaging in racial profiling and racially or ethnically based harassment, as we were reminded by the Henry Louis Gates incident.
More empty promises
Last week, Napolitano met with 130 immigration reform advocates and employers from big corporations at the White House. The meeting included White House officials and DHS staff members. Not specific results came out of the event, only promises heard before. The National Immigration Forum reports with a hopeful and politically correct tone:
President Obama and Secretary Napolitano remain committed to comprehensive immigration reform, know that enforcement of our out-dated laws alone is no solution, and understood when we told them that pro-reform constituencies are growing impatient. They both know that reforming the immigration system is the best way to achieve control over immigration, establish legality, and enhance security.By the way, racist anti-immigrant group Heritage Foundation was not invited to the meeting. They didn't miss out much: this can be just another trick to calm down the pro-immigrant movement, which is growing nationwide as most American citizens now support it.
We were there to tell Secretary Napolitano that she needs to take a leadership role in building support for comprehensive immigration reform on Capitol Hill and with the American public. She told us she understands she has to do a better job communicating and a more consistent job of leading, but we need to see action to be sure she really got the message.
The President is clear that he wants immigration reform to move forward this year so that we can pass a bill early next year. To do that, we need to see more motion from Congress and more push from Secretary Napolitano. We hope to see detailed congressional proposals shortly after recess.
Blogger activist Kyle De Beausset, who is an immigrant and son of U.S. citizens wrote this recently:
Specifically, Secretary Napolitano should be asked why DHS has not severed its contract with Arpaio (Napolitano’s hometown sheriff), and why DHS opted last week to expand a failed experimental Bush immigration enforcement policy that has demonstrably resulted in mass racial profiling. [...]Every time Janet Napolitano is asked about an immigration reform, she only talks about one side of the story: law enforcement, but she hardly ever takes responsibility for the tragedies with people dying every day:
I recognize that the Obama administration has a lot on its plate with health care reform, climate change, education, and many other issues I'm anxiously awaiting action on. That, however, does not give the Obama administration the excuse to continue to allow the DHS to terrorize migrants with the remains Bush-era migrant enforcement apparatus. The people voted for change on U.S. migration policy and Obama has only given us much of the same.
The American people have to have confidence that whatever is done will be carried out, that we won't adopt a bill and then not enforce it over the next 20 years. But as we build that confidence, and we will, part of what we are doing is saying that we need to have smart enforcement of our laws. [...]Napolitano is not to be trusted. Her public record speak of a very disturbing racist insensitive pattern, which should be stopped by president Obama immediately. The president of the U.S. has the executive power to stop incarcerations and deportations of undocumented workers, today and at this very moment.
Immigration reform is not simple, but it can be accomplished, and Napolitano believes it can be done on a bipartisan basis. It is going to require an end to the rhetoric, a stop to the politics.
Napolitano doesn't want to admitt that laws are not perpetual and they are meant to be changed with time, as societies evolute as well. For instance, Native Americans weren't allowed citizenship until 1924, and if Janet Napolitano were born by the time Arizona was anexed to the United States, she would not have the right to vote.
A reform of the current immigration legislation will require a difficult fight against hateful racist groups, and those who are misinformed about the benefits of legalizing 12 million workers and their families. In this regard, secretary Janet Napolitano is doing a terrible job by focusing on attacking civilians who are struggling to improve their lives, instead of promoting a healthy debate by educating the public.
With an immigration reform, the Obama administration has the opportunity of changing this country's history. Napolitano herself needs to be reminded of the past and the awful consequences that racist U.S. government policies has caused on humanity before. Especially on the oppressed Indigenous peoples of this continent, which is the same people she is prosecuting today.