Well, it looks like I spoke too soon yesterday when I predicted that Janet Napolitano would sit tight in Arizona and run for John McCain 's Senate seat in 2010. Perhaps after McCain announced he will definitely seek reelection, Napolitano decided the fight would be too ugly and too close. Or perhaps, despite protestations to the contrary, she's been seeking an administration job all along.
Homeland Security is a vast, sprawling bureaucracy that encompasses 22 separate agencies, including the Immigration and Naturalization Service, FEMA, and the Transportation Security Administration. Napolitano is serious, wonky, and known for running a tight, bipartisan ship in Phoenix, so she has the skills necessary to get DHS under control. But undoubtedly, it was Napolitano's success at charting a third way on immigration that got her noticed by national Democrats. As I wrote in my July profile of Napolitano, she called for the National Guard to be sent to the border before the Bush administration did, and she signed one of the most restrictive anti-immigration bills in the country, an employer sanctions law that enforces stiff penalties for hiring undocumented workers.
You'd think this would piss off immigrants' rights activists and liberals — and indeed, they were skeptical at first. But Napolitano's reasoned compromises on immigration — and her ability to talk about the issue in a way that recognizes concerns on both sides — has allowed her to veto many of the harshest anti-immigrant measures served up by the nativists in Arizona's state legislature, all the while maintaining a 76 percent approval rating in one of the most anti-immigration states in the country. Napolitano can truly be credited with holding back a tidal wave of anti-immigrant sentiment in her state.
We need that kind of leadership on immigration at the national level. And hopefully, during his first year in office, Obama will take the counsel of experts like Napolitano and tackle comprehensive immigration reform.
Image used under a Creative Commons license from Flickr user cobalt123.
cross-posted at TAPPED