The mission of the Department of Homeland Security is laid out simply: “The vision of Homeland Security is to ensure a homeland that is safe, secure, and resilient against terrorism and other hazards.” Of the five core missions that the department seeks to carry out, it is the second one that has recently come of great interest in the eyes of UCR students: “to secure and manage the borders of the United States.”
With Janet Napolitano’s selection as the newest and first female UC President, this question has become more relevant than ever due to her previous job history: secretary of Homeland Security. During her stewardship, the Department of Homeland Security deported more undocumented immigrants than any other administration in the country’s history. More than 21,000 border agents now patrol the United States’ borders, the largest number for at least the past two decades. Napolitano is now seen as a supporter of the war on undocumented immigrants and an operator of the government machine that rips apart the families of undocumented residents.
Naturally, there is concern for undocumented students who have managed to find some solace in the UC education system. The University of California has been able to provide undocumented students a chance to surpass the boundaries of not being a citizen to be successful in a country that relegates them to the shadows. So it’s no wonder that there is hostility between undocumented students and the newly-appointed UC President Janet Napolitano.
Being the former secretary for the Department of Homeland Security doesn’t really create a sense of comfort for undocumented students and their allies who already resent the department responsible for dismembering their families in the first place. It’s difficult to ask students to simply brush her past aside and demonstrate her directive skills.
These concerns are justified, and we as students must be vigilant. But we must also remember that although Napolitano isn’t the most favorable choice and was selected by a flawed system, she isn’t a two-dimensional figure. Indeed, during her tenure as secretary and as governor of Arizona, she has made strides by calling for a more comprehensive immigration reform bill. She has also supported undocumented individuals by testifying in support of the DREAM Act and argued for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals before the House Judiciary Committee. These facts must be considered just as equally as her record of deportations is.
But another question is also posed: How does someone who once worked for Homeland Security have the skills needed to manage a sprawling education system for the students of the University of California?
Even though Arizona’s had a mixed record on public education, Napolitano has nonetheless championed bills to increase financial aid and renovate the state’s public education institutions.
As the secretary for Homeland Security, Napolitano invested 2.2 million in national labs and universities across the United States to protect infrastructure. She has also strengthened efforts in outreach through the Office of Academic Engagement which is meant for outreach to academic institutions and created the Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council, which has involved over 20 colleges and universities. This is all the more impressive given that she has been subject to the whims of a petulant and capricious Congress.
As UC President, there really hasn’t been anything to promote such negative discourse since the only matter that has taken place in her new position is the decision to provide $5 million toward the education of undocumented students. Napolitano has also made an effort to reach out to every UC campus to learn about the goals, aspirations and direction that each campus has. Yes, reaching out to the university campuses can just be considered a publicity stunt until further action is actually made in result of these visits. But the fact that she is making the trips is better than if she stayed put in Oakland.
During her position as Homeland Security, thousands of United States residents were deported; however, as a student body it is our responsibility to control what she does for the University of California. Protesting before anything has been implemented may not be the best way for students to achieve the results we desire. We must show that we are strong and active — and that as a student body, we have the power to control what is delivered to us.
The new University of California president now holds the duty to deliver and improve the education provided to all of its students, taking the good ideas with her and relegating the failures as things of the past. Her role now requires her to provide a quality education to both citizens and non-citizens despite their background, and she should strive to meet that goal.
There is no reason to give Napolitano our full trust, but rather than prejudging her work as the newly-appointed UC president, we must keep a watchful eye over our school and the goals that she has in store for the students. We need to actively engage in each policy that is made to ensure that all students are being benefited in this system of top-tier education. Although students have valid concerns toward the appointment of Napolitano, these precautions should not be transformed into a blind hatred toward her but rather a reason to involve and inform others about the future changes that may take place in the UC institution.