Longform

Janet Napolitano's Sorry Service Makes Her a Terrible Choice as Homeland Security Secretary

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In January 2006, federal agents raided the community and served 66 grand jury subpoenas.

"Today, we have sent a message to Warren Jeffs that those marriages will not be tolerated, and we have also sent a message to the young women in Colorado City that they are entitled to the protection of the law," said one prosecutor after the conviction of church leader Ron Barton.

Warren Jeffs was arrested August 31, 2006, while on the run on a Nevada interstate. He was in possession of 16 cell phones, disguises, a dozen pairs of sunglasses, three wigs, and $55,000 in cash.

He was tried and convicted on two counts of rape in September 2007. He was sentenced to two five-year-to-life terms to be served concurrently.


As Arizona's top executive, Governor Janet Napolitano carved her niche as a champion of children.

We ask those who trumpet her nomination to Barack Obama's cabinet: But who is against children?

It is not a facetious question. In any case, Arizona's metrics that measure educational achievement are as low as they are irrelevant to the job at hand. All-day kindergarten has less than nothing to do with Homeland Security.

As she is an advocate for the smallest amongst us, so too, we assume she is steadfast against terrorism.

Her abilities on that front are a mystery.

What we know, and what she is known for, is that along with President George Bush, she militarized our border with Mexico by deploying thousands of National Guard troops.

And this year, the Guard was replaced by a vastly expanded Border Patrol.

Hovering at about 16,000 officers, the Border Patrol is a force to be reckoned with upon our border.

"There are 6 million people who live on the American side of our border with Mexico," the Border Action Network's Jennifer Allen said in a recent conversation. "They live there, hunt there, hike there. We now have a climate of fear."

Allen noted that in Douglas, Arizona, roughly 15,000 people reside and are under the watchful — and occasionally intrusive — eye of 500 Border Patrol agents.

"That's one in 30," said Allen. "I just got back from a meeting in Washington with the head of the Border Patrol, David Aguillar. He told me he regards his force as 'paramilitary.'"

As much as critics wish it were so, it is not just the American government that has militarized the border.

More than 4,000 people have been murdered on the Mexican side of the border in the past year.

The Mexican government is using armed federal troops to hunt down drug dealers from the cartels, and the carnage is remarkable.

In January 2007, a small contingent of the National Guard pulled back from their posts when four armed men approached in military fashion from the Mexican side of the border. Bloodshed was avoided.

But the Border Patrol routinely is dealing with armed couriers smuggling drugs and people.

In his recent book on Lincoln, James M. McPherson quotes from Carl von Clausewitz's 1873 treatise Vom Kriege: "It is clear that war should never be thought of as something autonomous but always as an instrument of policy."

Having militarized our border, what is our policy?

Is Janet Napolitano capable of articulating a policy beyond her desire, often expressed, of wishing that the federal government had such a policy.

The Border Patrol claims that immigration is down because they are apprehending fewer Mexicans than in the past.

As the Economist pointed out, that is rather like estimating the number of fish in the sea by counting those in your net.

We know that money sent home to Mexico from the United States has exploded from well under $2 billion in 2000 to $6 billion today.

Arriving at a border policy is, after the economy, the greatest challenge facing the nation, and there is little indication that immigration is moving to any quick consideration (even Lincoln waited some years to address slavery).

President Bush and Sen. John McCain were both silenced by populist outrage within their party when they proposed answers.

Directing Homeland Security, protecting our border with Mexico, and helping to articulate an immigration policy will require leadership and character.

Governor Janet Napolitano's qualifications are less than modest.

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Michael Lacey is the executive editor of Village Voice Media, a group of 15 metropolitan newsweeklies that stretch from Miami to San Francisco. He writes frequently for Phoenix New Times, which he co-founded in 1970. In 1997, he co-founded New Times Broward-Palm Beach, and since then, the paper has seen circulation increase nearly ten-fold. Lacey’s work has been recognized in the following journalism competitions: Unity Awards in Media, Mencken Awards, Heywood Broun Awards, Golden Quill Awards, Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism, Nixon Newspaper National Journalism Writing Awards, John Bartlow Martin Awards, Scripps Howard Foundation National Journalism Awards, Best of the West Awards, Maggie Awards, and the Arizona Press Club’s Don Schellie Award for Feature Column Writing.
Contact: Michael Lacey