US Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has announced she will step down from her position, to accept the presidency of the University of California system. The story was initially published by the Los Angeles Times, which reported about the secretive process underwent by the Board of Regents in selecting and hiring Napolitano as the system’s first female president.
The resignation comes as a surprising event, in the middle of the immigration reform debate in Congress. Whoever is selected as Napolitano’s successor will be tasked with implementing immigration reform if and when it passes the houses of Congress.
The secretary issued a statement in which she said:
“For more than four years I have had the privilege of serving President Obama and his Administration as the Secretary of Homeland Security. The opportunity to work with the dedicated men and women of the Department of Homeland Security, who serve on the frontlines of our nation’s efforts to protect our communities and families from harm, has been the highlight of my professional career. We have worked together to minimize threats of all kinds to the American public. The Department has improved the safety of travelers; implemented smart steps that make our immigration system more fair and focused while deploying record resources to protect our nation’s borders; worked with states to build resiliency and make our nation’s emergency and disaster response capabilities more robust; and partnered with the private sector to improve our cybersecurity. After four plus years of focusing on these challenges, I will be nominated as the next President of the University of California to play a role in educating our nation’s next generation of leaders. I thank President Obama for the chance to serve our nation during this important chapter in our history, and I know the Department of Homeland Security will continue to perform its important duties with the honor and focus that the American public expects.”
The news also represents a potential complication for Puerto Rico, since Homeland Security had just announced yesterday their intention to divert more resources in an expansion of their “Caribbean Resistance” operation, which had begun its implementation in Loiza, Puerto Rico. Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi had met and discussed the issue of Puerto Rico’s pervasive high crime rate with Napolitano on several occasions, and her support was instrumental in getting the federal government to make a stronger compromise to defending its Caribbean frontier.
The move by the DHS would bring more agents and resources to Puerto Rico to bolster the operation, which has already yielded 560 arrests in the zone, and has been credited with helping to reduce crime rates in the impacted areas. The announcement had followed Napolitano’s visit to Puerto Rico in July 2012, during which she met Pierluisi and then Governor Luis Fortuño to discuss the drug trafficking issues plaguing the territory, and the requests from the islands’ government for more assistance. Since then, the DHS and the secretary had affirmed their compromise to invest more resources, and have been in constant contact with Pierluisi’s office.