Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano is President Barack Obama’s secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Napolitano has experience in federal law enforcement and dealing with immigration issues on the front lines, which she will need to draw on in running the department created in response to the 9/11 terror attacks. She was confirmed by the Senate January 26, 2009.
Prior to her election as governor, Napolitano served as U.S. attorney for Arizona and assisted in the investigation into the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the country’s worst terror attack prior to 9/11.
As governor of a border state, Napolitano has been a prominent voice in the national debate on immigration policy. She declared a state of emergency in 2005 to direct more state funds toward border enforcement. In early 2006, she mobilized National Guard troops at the border to stem illegal immigration. At the same time, Napolitano has been a critic of the construction of the fence along the U.S. border.
Napolitano urged Congress to pass the June 2007 comprehensive immigration reform bill, which ultimately stalled. In January 2008, Napolitano called for enhanced border security and said the United States should crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants. She also advocated a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants currently in the country.
"Don’t label me soft on illegal immigration," Napolitano wrote in a 2007 Washington Post op-ed. "As a U.S. attorney (predating the Gonzales Justice Department), I supervised the prosecution of more than 6,000 immigration felonies. I govern a state where, in 2005, there were 550,000 apprehensions of illegal immigrants."
In addition to immigration and border control, the homeland security secretary presides over the Coast Guard, disaster response, the Transportation Security Administration, and nuclear detection, among other responsibilities.
Federalism and Disaster Response: Examining the Roles and Responsibilities of Local, State, and Federal Agencies. Testimony of Janet Napolitano before the House Committee on Homeland Security. October 19, 2005
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