Recently, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that she is resigning her position in order to become the President of the University of the California school system. Ms. Napolitano, who has been the head of the DHS for more than four years, will officially step down in September in order to facilitate the transition for the new incoming Secretary.
As Secretary, Ms. Napolitano has greatly affected immigration policy by voicing her support for policy changes by the Obama Administration, such as its implementation of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and Supreme Court decisions, such as the recent case allowing same-sex couples to take advantage of immigration benefits.
In her role as the DHS Secretary, Ms. Napolitano also publicly commented on emerging immigration policy and trends, advised the President on matters of immigration law, and issued statements to the public regarding immigration news and updates.
The Role of the DHS in U.S. Immigration
The DHS plays an incredibly important role in U.S. immigration. Former President Bush created the DHS in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks by restructuring the previous federal immigration agency called Immigration and Naturalization Service. The goal of the DHS is to protect the internal security of the United States and its citizens through efforts that combat terrorism, both foreign and domestic. To accomplish that goal, the DHS utilizes its $98.8 billion budget and its more than 200,000 employees.
Secretary Napolitano has been a stalwart supporter of expanding immigration opportunities since she assumed her position. Hopefully President Obama will be able to appoint an equally immigrant-friendly Secretary upon her official resignation. Continue to check back with our blog as we bring readers updates on this critical change in DHS hierarchy.
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Within the DHS are 22 federal agencies, many of which directly handle immigration-related issues. For example, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) accepts and reviews petitions for immigration benefits such as employment-based and family-based green card applications. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the agency responsible for detaining and initiating deportation proceedings against foreign nationals who are suspected of committing crimes or of being in the United States without authorization. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers inspect individuals entering the United States (both foreign nationals and citizens), as well as their luggage and belongings. (Within the CBP is the sub-agency Border Patrol, which oversees and secures the Canada-U.S. and Mexico-U.S. borders.)
Possible Candidates for the New DHS Secretary
With Ms. Napolitano’s resignation, President Obama must nominate (and the Senate must confirm) a new DHS Secretary in the next several weeks. While no frontrunner has yet emerged, many names have been thrown into the ring.
For example, President Obama has stated that he feels the New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly would be an excellent candidate for consideration for the position.
Additionally, W. Craig Fugate, who is the current Head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), has been mentioned as a possible replacement due to the Obama Administration’s approval of how he has improved FEMA since Hurricane Katrina.
Another possible replacement is Alejandro Mayorkas, the current Head of USCIS. Mr. Mayorkas was recently nominated for the DHS Deputy Secretary position. Born in Cuba, Mr. Mayorkas poses a unique benefit to the Administration as his confirmation as Secretary would add a Hispanic department head to the President’s Cabinet.
Business Immigration, ImmigRantings, May 14, 2012
Denial Rates for H-1B Visas Rising in U.S. Consulates in India, ImmigRantings, February 19, 2013
Immigration Advocacy Group Alleges that USCIS Targets Small Businesses for H-1B Scrutiny, ImmigRantings, January 5, 2013