News

Homeland Security chief leaving for academic post

Homeland Security chief leaving for academic post

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano listens to a reporter's question during the Reuters Cybersecurity Summit in Washington, May 14, 2013. Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, a vocal supporter of immigration reform who became a target for Republicans, said on Friday she will leave her position to lead the University of California.

It was not clear who would replace her at the helm of the Department of Homeland Security, the third-largest U.S. department with a broad mandate including immigration and disaster response. She plans to leave in early September.

The former Arizona governor has been an outspoken proponent of immigration reform and her announcement came as the U.S. Congress struggled to agree on an overhaul of immigration laws. She also had a prominent role in briefing Congress and the public about terrorism, including after the Boston Marathon bombings in April.

An original member of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet, Napolitano was praised for restoring the Federal Emergency Management Agency to good standing after its disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Obama thanked Napolitano for working “around the clock” to respond to natural disasters including the 2011 Joplin, Missouri, tornado and Hurricane Sandy that battered the Northeast last year, as well as other challenges.

“Since day one, Janet has led my administration’s effort to secure our borders, deploying a historic number of resources, while also taking steps to make our immigration system fairer and more consistent with our values,” Obama said in a statement.

“The American people are safer and more secure thanks to Janet’s leadership,” he said.

Napolitano faced criticism from Republicans who accused her of presenting an overly rosy picture of the administration’s track record on securing the U.S. border. Other critics said she failed to solve problems in her sprawling department, which was voted the least satisfying government agency in which to work.

“The many agencies housed within DHS are only as effective as their leadership, and it is crucial that the administration appoints someone who does not underestimate the threats against us, and who is committed to enforcing the law and creating a unified Department,” said Republican Michael McCaul, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee in the House of Representatives.

The Department of Homeland Security was created in response to the September 11, 2001, attacks. It combined 22 different departments and has more than 240,000 employees focusing on sectors including aviation, border security and cyber-security.

Democrats praised Napolitano for helping to reduce illegal immigration and for supporting a measure last year to relax deportation rules for young people brought to the United States without legal status.

“She did the right thing in exercising her authority to provide temporary relief against deportation for children who were brought to this country through no fault of their own,” said Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy, a Democrat.

Earlier in her career, Napolitano led the investigation into the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing as U.S. attorney for the District of Arizona.

Napolitano thanked Obama for the chance to serve the United States “during this important chapter of our history” and said she was looking forward to her new role focusing on “educating our nation’s next generation of leaders.”

The University of California includes more than 234,000 students and 207,000 faculty at 10 campuses.

Recent Headlines

5 hours ago in Local

SD Governor Dennis Daugaard Still Expects Deal on Medicaid

daugaard

South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard says the dialogue with federal officials over Medicaid expansion is continuing.

13 hours ago in Local

Nebraska Groundwater Levels on the Rise

WaterDrop

A new report shows groundwater levels are up in Nebraska, on average, six inches.

20 hours ago in Local

SD Senator Mike Rounds Questions Fed Fiscal Policy

SD Senator Mike Rounds

South Dakota Senator Mike Rounds was among a group of Senators that met with Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen this week. She oversees the board that sets fiscal policy for the country.

22 hours ago in Local

SD Senator John Thune; Messages in Presidential Races

John Thune School

Even though he has not officially endorsed a Presidential candidate, South Dakota Senator John Thune is paying close attention to both races.

1 day ago in Local

Record Year for Land Sales in Yankton County

Brian Hunhoff 021116

Yankton County saw a record level of land sales in 2015.