Former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano gave a speech at the University of Georgia Law School this week (see full text here), telling us why the president should go it alone and create another "executive action" program to shelter thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands if not millions, of illegal aliens from the laws that they have chosen to break.
She was quoted in an interview with the Washington Post saying that "If Congress refuses to act and perform its duties, then I think it's appropriate for the executive to step in and use his authorities based on law ... to take action in the immigration arena."
It's a puzzling phrase coming from a senior politician and lawyer. When Congress decides it doesn't want to pass a particular law, is it "refusing to perform its duties"? What if it had decided not to pass a law legalizing the use of cocaine, despite the urging of a president who wished to decriminalize major portions of our existing drug prohibition statutes. Would that be a refusal to act, or a considered rejection of an idea that they didn't support?
The fact that Napolitano is speaking at all on the subject of deferred action — from the safety of her academic perch, now that she's left government — suggests a certain desperation on the part of the White House, which surely vetted and approved her remarks, and which must sense that the foundations of its house are crumbling in many directions all at the same time: the stumbling rollout of Obamacare; the fumbling response to the rise of ISIS; the mishandling of the Ebola outbreak; and tens of thousands of men, women, and children surging the border in the Rio Grande Valley, just to name a few.
What I can't figure out is why anyone thinks Napolitano has any credibility left after her undistinguished tenure over DHS — because clearly, if they didn't think she could sway public opinion, the administration would do everything they could to dissuade her from using the bully pulpit to bolster in advance actions the president has promised to take (after the midterm elections are safely over, of course).
During her remarks, Napolitano cited former Chief Justice Earl Warren, a past UGA Law School Speaker: "Warren was worried about what Watergate might portend for the future of the country. He said in his lecture that listening to Nixon's enablers testify had persuaded him that the nation was failing to instill in young Americans a sense of the moral values required of those who would assume positions of public leadership." Napolitano either has an acute, Machiavellian sense of humor, or she is completely self-unaware. Perhaps both:
- It was under Napolitano's watch that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a DHS agency, began cooking its books and its former director John Morton touted "record" numbers of deportations, only to have Napolitano's successor, Jeh Johnson, acknowledge a few years later that the numbers were fudged by adding in Border Patrol apprehensions so that ICE's figures were inflated and misleading.
- It was under Napolitano that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approvals in all areas of immigration benefits skyrocketed — including in the sensitive areas of refugees and asylees — to the point that virtually no one was being told "no", and leaked internal USCIS documents suggested that the fraud rate in the program might be as high as 70 percent.
- It was under Napolitano that DHS and ICE, in the first several years of implementing the important Secure Communities program, repeatedly misled Congress, the media, and the American public about the "voluntary" aspects of the program, only to pull the rug out from under that shaky dog when voluntary acceptance was rejected by states and localities, forcing her to acknowledge that participation was, in fact, mandatory and that implementation would proceed with or without state and local agreement.
- It was under Napolitano — not current DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson — that, even as she was perpetually telling us the border was more secure than ever, the flood of aliens into the Rio Grande Valley started; another point the government steadfastly refused to acknowledge until statistics and government transportation contract bid requests leaked out and told the story for themselves, showing just how far back the inundation had begun, and how far DHS had gone to hide the story from the public.
- And, it was Napolitano who, as aliens were flooding across our borders and into the country illegally, engaged in a dialogue with White House aides such as Cecilia Munoz (former Senior Vice President of the National Council of La Raza) that resulted in the controversial and constitutionally questionable Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which has resulted in permits for over 500,000 illegal aliens to live and work in the United States. That program was made such a top priority for the administration that, even as USCIS examiners were obliged to adjudicate requests for status under DACA, aliens with legitimate benefit applications were left sitting in ever-growing and ignored backlogs. And, in stark contrast to the picture painted by Napolitano in her speech — which she surely must know, and which then stands as another count in the indictment against her probity and moral rectitude — not all of the recipients of benefits in this program are honest school kids struggling to achieve the American dream. Many of them are near-illiterate and unskilled and some have shown themselves to be the truly "bad actors" Napolitano refers to in her remarks.
People are, of course, free to judge this speech for themselves — and will undoubtedly do so. Let's hope their judgment is informed by the facts. My take is simple: high-sounding bloviation from a politico whose actions while in office seriously suggest her own refusal to act and perform her duties.