Napolitano To Stay At Homeland Security
Secretary Janet Napolitano will continue to lead the Department of Homeland Security into President Barack Obama's second term, according to an agency official.
That means Napolitano is likely to play a central role should Congress take on immigration reform.
Napolitano left her post as governor of Arizona four years ago to join Obama's cabinet.
DHS houses several diverse agencies. Among them are Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Citizenship and Immigration Services, and Customs and Border Protection, which deal with immigration and border issues.
Under Napolitano's watch, deportations ramped up to record levels, which topped 400,000 last year.
"Secretary Napolitano has done an exemplary job of enforcing immigration law," said Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the Washington-based National Immigration Forum, which favors a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. "Some would argue, as we have at times, too good of a job."
That record, Noorani says, means Napolitano can help make the case for comprehensive immigration reform.
"She is in a position to articulate to Congress, how enforcement has been incredibly effective, but more importantly, how the immigration system needs to be fixed."
In her post at DHS, Napolitano has faced criticism from both sides of the immigration debate.
Her agency oversaw the initiative that gave work permits and a reprieve from deportation to young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children.
Advocates who favor stricter immigration enforcement criticized the initiative as a run around Congress.
Jessica Vaughn of the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington-based think tank that advocates restricting immigration, told ABC News that Napolitano remaining at DHS "shows that this administration plans to continue its existing policy, which is a state of perpetual amnesty."
Meanwhile, advocates of a more lenient immigration system have denounced Napolitano for mass deportations and the expansion of the Secure Communities program, which uses a fingerprint database to identify unauthorized immigrants who are booked into local jails.
"Every police officer in this country is a gateway to deportation and for that we have Janet Napolitano and the Obama administration to thank," said Sarahi Uribe of the National Day Labor Organization Network.
Uribe's organization issued a press release on Monday denouncing the news that Napolitano would continue in her post.
Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America's Voice Education Fund, echoed disappointment in Napolitano's tenure at DHS so far.
"ICE and CPB seem more focused on meeting an annual quota of 400,000 deportations than in implementing the President’s stated priorities that they go after the worst of the worst," Sharry wrote in an e-mail. "Her continued presence at DHS makes the need for reform greater since her Department is deporting people that should be eligible for legal status and citizenship under reform."
The White House has indicated plans to tackle immigration reform early in President Obama's second term.