Napolitano Confirmation at DHS

Janet Napolitano will be easily quickly confirmed as the new Secretary of Homeland Security, according to Joe Lieberman and ranking member Susan Collins.

Napolitano promises to help create a system for border control at homeland security that will consist of three parts: boots on the ground; technology: ground sensors and SBInet; and interior enforcement.

This is incredibly disappointing because it promises more of the same dangerous militarization of the border that the border has endured for the past 8 years.

Napolitano’s “system” is almost entirely enforcement-oriented.  If the right track is adhering to constitutional norms and treating border crossers like human beings,  Napolitano’s track is to continue treating them as “other” and seeking to discipline, detain, monitor and control immigrants coming into this country.  It’s the wrong track. 

She would like to rely on a national guard presence at the border, and says she will work with Defense Secry. Gates to find a way to create a permanent national guard presence. This mix of military and domestic law enforcement was outlawed over a century ago by posse comitatus.  In Arizona where Napolitano was one of the first governors to call for the national guard,  the national guard presence also presented serious chain of command problems and ended up wasting millions of taxpayer dollars. Napolitano says it was a deterrent. It wasn’t. the number of undocumented entries in and around arizona entry points increased during the national guard tenure.  So much for boots on the ground.

Next, Napolitano also favors SBInet, which according to Congress, the GAO, CBP and independent observers, has been an abject failure.

Finally, interior enforcement is code for federalizing border enforcement. In her state, such efforts endangered the rights of undocumented immigrants, legal immigrants and US citizens. 287(g) programs in Arizona resulted in hundreds of vigilante volunteers raiding hispanic neighborhoods at rooting hispanic people out of their homes and places of employment.

I would hope that prospective Secry Napolitano  re-imagines the mission of DHS with a commitment to the constitution and rule of law being front and center. I didn’t hear this commitment   during her testimony today.

Her current three-pronged approach is all too likely to continue  condoning abuses of power  that we saw under Chertoff and Ridge.

That’s not the “change” I want to believe in.


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