Janet Napolitano Oversaw a Massive Ethnic-Cleansing Against Immigrants
If you enjoy nausea, the effusive praise for departing U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano should be just your cup of castor oil.
After four-plus years as DHS chief, in charge of a sprawling government agency with 240,000 employees and 22 government agencies, Napolitano announced her resignation last week, giving up on President Barack Obama's ever kicking her up the food chain to become U.S. Attorney General, her dream job.
Now she's off to run the University of California system, with its 10 campuses, more than 230,000 students and nearly 19,000 faculty, at an annual salary of about three times her current $200,000 with the feds.
There's been speculation that her departure was rushed along by the debacle of the Boston Marathon bombings in April. Two brothers of Chechen descent are suspected of killing three people and wounding 264 otherswith bombs crafted from pressure cookers.
The bombings revealed possible intelligence failures by the FBI and DHS. Seems the bureau had been given a heads-up about one of the suspects by the Russian Federation, and the FBI even questioned the man at one point.
But the FBI claimed it found no evidence of terrorist activity, and the future bomber was free to travel from the United States to Russia and back again, despite the fact that the DHS also handles immigration — that is, those coming and going from this country — and communicating with the FBI about such matters.
This issue aside, there's been no outcry for Napolitano's resignation. The consensus seems to be that she just landed a better gig with a fatter salary.
And since U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is keeping his job, and since she's been passed over twice for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court — another position she's craved — best to be movin' on while the gettin's good.
"I think she's just worn out," a friend of hers told me recently. "And she wants to make some money."
Her exit stage west prompted a round of backslapping from some of America's political elite.
"If I had to give her a grade on her tenure, it would be A-plus," enthused New York Senator Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, who in the same statement proffered New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly as her replacement.
California Congresswoman and Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi praised Napolitano's "strength, intellect, and dedication to duty," saying the DHS secretary took on "some of the toughest challenges facing our country."
Even gnarly old Arizona Republican John McCain seemed uncharacteristically generous, noting that Napolitano had "one of the toughest and most thankless jobs in Washington" and asserting that Arizonans can be "proud" of their ex-governor.
"We have had our share of disagreements during her time as secretary," the senior senator stated, "but I have never doubted her integrity, work ethic, or commitment to our nation's security."
Her boss, President Obama, issued a heartwarming bon voyage, stating that he's "come to rely on Janet's judgment and advice" during her time in D.C.
"Since day one, Janet has led my administration's effort to secure our borders," Obama said, adding, "while also taking steps to make our immigration system fairer and more consistent with our values."
Only if your values include mass arrests, police-state tactics, militarism, and ruthlessness toward our society's most vulnerable members.
Because what these well-wishers omit is this terrifying number: 2 million.
This is the estimated 2 million mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, grandmothers and grandfathers ripped from their families during Napolitano's reign as the nation's chief immigration enforcer. The overwhelming majority of them Latino.
Indeed, when astute future historians assess Napolitano's role in Obama's presidency, they will perceive her as a shill in one of the cruelest cons ever perpetuated on a segment of the American public.
For, as most political observers know, Latinos have awarded Obama's promises on immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship with unprecedented support — 71 percent of Latino voters having backed Obama in the 2012 election.
And, in return, an ever-smiling Obama has dished out to their friends and family members — and themselves — a heaping plate of injustice, punishment, and misery. Not directly, mind you. But via his appointed hunter of Hispanics, Janet Napolitano.
More than once, Napolitano, a Democrat, has admitted to looking at the world from a law enforcement perspective. Before she was elected governor in 2002, she'd been U.S. Attorney for Arizona and the state's attorney general.
She was tapped for the DHS in part because she endorsed Obama early in the 2008 presidential primary season, when he and Hillary Clinton were at each other's throats vying for their party's nomination. Obama desperately needed a Democratic woman of note to campaign for him.
Even then, Napolitano lusted after the post that Eric Holder ultimately scored. But Obama-ites saw her better-suited to be the administration's token nativist, their Democratic border hawk, with a résumé to impress even some hard-nosed Hispanic haters while placating the left with a patina of progressivism.
It's a role she played with ease for many years here. So much so that she still has a fan base in Arizona, though not enough of one to support her return in 2010 to run against McCain for U.S. Senate, yet another position she longed for.
This is one reason academics and students of the UC system should pay very close attention to the history lesson I'm about to teach:
At heart, Napolitano is and always will be deeply conservative, authoritarian, and pro-cop. You can count on her to seek power and to use that power for self-advancement. While paying lip service to liberal niceties, she will crush you after throwing away the velvet glove.
This message should be of special significance to the UC system's Latino students, who according to the magazine Diverse: Issues in Education became this year the system's largest pool of undergraduates. They now make up 32 percent of new applicants, outpacing both Asian-Americans at about 31 percent and Anglos at 27 percent.
Unlike Arizona, which discriminates against DREAMers, California welcomes these young people.
Meaning that UC's campuses also educate the undocumented, as well as those related to the undocumented, perhaps born to undocumented parents. And these are the very people Napolitano prosecuted for many years.
What about the June 2012 reprieve the federal government tossed those longing for the DREAM Act to be passed, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which gives certain undocumented aliens, brought here when they were young, a two-year respite from deportation?
So far, more than 400,000 DREAMers nationwide have applied for and been granted this status. But Carlos Garcia, an organizer with the Phoenix human rights group Puente says Napolitano doesn't deserve a pass for DACA while there's so much suffering still going on.
"All [the act] has granted is deferment," Garcia told me recently. "It doesn't really 'legalize' anyone. And we still see problems. We see her unable to stand up to Governor Jan Brewer, when Brewer did not recognize DACA and did not give driver's licenses to people here in Arizona."
Indeed, Garcia argues that Napolitano's hand was forced by the Republicans, particularly by Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, who reportedly was working on his own plan for DREAMers at the time.
For Garcia, DACA mostly was election-year politics by the Obama administration more than anything else. Though he's glad for it, it does nothing to alleviate the suffering he sees on a daily basis, as Puente fights removal of Arizonans on a case-by-case basis through Not One More Deportation, its campaign with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.
"In no way does DACA compare to the close to 2 million people Napolitano's deported!" he declared, promising that his colleagues in Arizona, on UC campuses, and elsewhere will protest Napolitano's move to the Left Coast.
"I think it's unconscionable that a university system will accept her as a president," he continued, "when she's been destroying families and doing things an educational institution should not be okay with."
The legacy of the Obama-Napolitano team, according to Garcia and others, will be the "Arizona-ification" of the U.S. immigration system, which comprises the largest segment of Napolitano's portfolio at the DHS.
Similarly, Chris Newman, Garcia's ally and the NDL Organizing Network's legal director, welcomed Napolitano's exit, saying in a statement, "She ultimately will be remembered as the [DHS] secretary who brought Arizona's repugnant policies to the rest of the country."
Newman referred to a concept that was at the core of Arizona Senate Bill 1070 and has been a key component of Napolitano's anti-immigrant infrastructure: the collaboration between the federal government and local law enforcement in identifying and apprehending undocumented immigrants.
Homeland Security has done this using several methods, which Napolitano expanded during her tenure, such as Secure Communities and the notorious 287(g) program.
S-Comm, as it's known, uses technology to allow the sharing of biometrics like fingerprints between state and local police, jails, and prisons on one side and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on the other.
The system now is in use nationwide, a trick the DHS achieved by allowing ICE and the FBI to cross-check databases. Before doing this, the DHS allowed locals to believe they had a say in the matter and could opt out of the program.
When it was revealed that S-Comm essentially was a dragnet, sweeping up immigrants, both legal and illegal, into deportation proceedings — sometimes because they were arrested for minor crimes — large jurisdictions (such as New York state, the District of Columbia, and Illinois) balked.
Pressure from activists eventually revealed that the program was mandatory, and that the DHS had been lying to localities about it.
But the so-called 287(g) program, which trains local law enforcement officers to become, in effect, immigration cops, has drawn the most scrutiny, largely because of those who have abused that authority, notably Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Arpaio once had the largest force of 287(g) officers in the nation, 160. And you know who helped Arpaio get that 287(g) force? None other than the future chief of the UC system.
Janet Napolitano was the politician who brought 287(g) to Arizona.
In 2005, the year anti-immigration forces made a big splash on the Arizona-Mexico border with the Minuteman Project, and one year after Arizona voters passed Proposition 200 (requiring proof of citizenship at the polls and verification of immigration status and eligibility for social services), Napolitano convened an immigration summit for the top law enforcement brass in the state.
There, the head of the Arizona Department of Public Safety at the time, Roger Vanderpool, set the first domino in motion, unveiling a plan to train a dozen DPS officers for the sort of immigration work usually reserved for the feds.
Under 287(g), which refers to a section of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act added in 1996, the feds and local law enforcement signed a memorandum of agreement under which the locals could enforce federal immigration law.
Perhaps it was inevitable that Napolitano's power-hungry political ally, Arpaio, also would want in on the deal.
Napolitano and Arpaio already had teamed up to pressure the feds to give Arizona more support on the immigration front. And ICE, ever eager to pump up its numbers of immigrants arrested and deported, wanted access to Arpaio's jails, the most populous in the state.
In early 2007, the deal was inked with ICE. Sixty cross-trained MCSO officers would work the jails, and Arpaio would get 100 for the streets.
Arpaio's 287(g) deputies were supposed to be used, per the agreement, for pursuing the likes of gangbangers and drug and human smugglers. But "Nickel Bag Joe." as he's known in these parts, had other ideas.
At a press conference, full of the usual Arpaio bluster, the sheriff bragged that his 287(g) men could question people about their immigration status after stopping them for "spitting on the sidewalk."
Alonzo Pena, ICE's special agent in charge, denied this was the case, when asked by reporters. But he forgot who gives the orders in Maricopa County.
"I would think," Arpaio told the Arizona Republic at the time, "once people see our cars, they will be very scared, especially if they are illegal."
True to his word, Arpaio soon frightened the hell out of the county's Latino population, to the huzzahs of Hispanic-haters nationwide.
The MCSO then targeted church parking lots where day laborers congregated and neighborhoods where brown skin was prevalent. Deputies patrolled the streets surrounding a furniture store in Phoenix where day laborers were accused of loitering.
In 2008, Arpaio began the first, full-size sweeps of large swaths of the county. There also were raids of car washes, candle makers, restaurants, landscapers, you name it.
An anti-Latino pogrom had begun, one that didn't begin to subside until last year.
What did the governor of Arizona do as Arpaio became the self-proclaimed "poster boy" for immigration enforcement, sowing fear and discord across the county?
Largely, she ignored him. And, in this case, silence truly is complicity.
In May 2008, Napolitano diverted $1.6 million that had gone to pay for MCSO patrols to a program to pursue open felony warrants. Though Arpaio pitched a fit, Napolitano's administration denied that the diversion was a commentary on the sheriff.
At that point, Napolitano was focused on her future meal ticket and her fare to D.C., Barack Obama. She was less concerned about opposing Arpaio, which is why she never supported his rival in the 2008 general election, Dan Saban. County Democrats had persuaded Saban to cross over from the Republican side, but Napolitano never helped Saban raise money, much less officially endorse him.
It never would have been politically prudent to endorse Arpaio, though Napolitano was his accomplice in myriad civil rights violations. As U.S. Attorney, she covered for Arpaio when he signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice in 1997 over the condition of his vast incarceration complex.
Deadly restraint chairs were then in use — and prisoners were getting killed in them. Brutality and denial of basic medical care were the order of the day in his gulags.
"Jail inmates are subject to the use of excessive force and use of excessive and improper mechanical restraints by jail employees," the agreement read. "And defendants fail to protect jail inmates from such actions."
It read that Arpaio and his team were "consciously aware of, but deliberately indifferent to" these conditions, and "unless restrained" by the federal court, he and his detention officers would "continue to engage in this conduct."
Despite the seriousness of the charges and the agreement, Napolitano stood next to Arpaio at a press conference and pooh-poohed the whole matter, calling the agreement a "technicality" and a "lawyer's paper."
She was asked whether the document repeated claims made in a scathing 1996 DOJ report that led to the lawsuit.
Overlooking the plain language of the document, kept from journalists until the press conference was over, Napolitano replied, "They re-allege allegations, but dismiss them."
This publication's co-owner at the time, Michael Lacey, reminded readers of this and revealed an even more disturbing allegation by Phoenix attorney Mike Manning: Napolitano was presented with evidence that Arpaio had instituted an illegal cover-up in the 1996 jail death of Scott Norberg.
The inmate had fallen victim to what Manning often refers to as a "jailers' riot." That is, Norberg was beaten by a crowd of guards before he was transferred to a restraint chair where he was asphyxiated, his larynx crushed.
Manning turned over boxes of damning information on Arpaio's organization, backing up his claim that crucial evidence in the case had been destroyed, including Norberg's larynx.
Federal prosecutors salivated at what they saw, but Napolitano blocked the inquiry, denying her attorneys the chance to pursue the case against our outlaw sheriff.
Arpaio paid back his paisan years later by de facto endorsing her in her race for governor against Republican Matt Salmon, now Arizona's 5th District congressman.
It was a close election, ultimately decided by 11,819 votes. Accused of being soft on perverts as Arizona's chief federal prosecutor, Napolitano called in her chits, and Joe came to the rescue with a TV ad declaring, "As U.S. Attorney, she was the number-one prosecutor of child molesters in the nation."
This from the man who would be lambasted years later for his department's bungling of more than 400 sex crimes in El Mirage and elsewhere, many of them involving kids.
Alfredo Gutierrez, who's served as both majority and minority leader in the Arizona Senate, ran against Napolitano in the 2002 Democratic gubernatorial primary.
A persistent pro-immigrant politician and activist, he has been an unflinching critic of Napolitano's over the years. Like many Arizona Latinos, he despises both her record as DHS secretary and her record of pandering to nativists as governor.
"From the Latino community's point of view, her legacy is catastrophic," Gutierrez told me when he was asked about his old rival's move to California.
"In Arizona, she called out the National Guard to the border, she signed the earliest and most stringent employer-sanctions bills in the country, she signed a bill that made the [human] cargo of smugglers felons, as opposed to the smugglers," he recounted.
Then he declared, "Her record in Arizona vis-a-vis immigration is atrocious!"
To her credit, Napolitano did veto some of the worst proposals of now-recalled former state Senate President Russell Pearce and had her public contretemps with Pearce. But employer sanctions was Pearce's baby, and Napolitano approved it over the opposition of both business leaders and Hispanics.
The governor promised to "secure the border" and railed at a supposed link between crime and illegal immigrants. Republicans saw her as seeking to outflank them on the issue. And they're right. She expertly did just that.
Her prize came in November 2008, with the election of America's first black president. No doubt anticipating this, she was giddy, even dancing a little jig as state Democrats celebrated the big win at the Wyndham Hotel in downtown Phoenix.
Other than Napolitano's eventual career advancement, Obama's victory didn't benefit Arizona Democrats immediately. Arpaio also was re-elected. So was his anti-immigrant cohort, County Attorney Andrew Thomas (who was disbarred a couple of years later).
Also, state Republicans had consolidated their leads in both the upper and lower chambers of the Legislature. Next in the constitutional line of succession for the ninth-floor Governor's Office was Arizona Secretary of State Jan Brewer, who took over as Napolitano hightailed it for the nation's capital.
With no one to block the craziest bills proffered by the Pearce and the nativist extremists, SB 1070 became an inevitability. A seriously synapse-deficient individual, Brewer had to run for re-election in 2010 and face a contentious GOP primary.
Napolitano had vetoed Pearce bills in the past, but Brewer wasn't in a position to say no, and in April 2010, signed 1070 into law.
Do I blame Napolitano for abandoning the state to pursue bigger things? Absolutely. They call it public service for a reason, but the service Napolitano's concerned herself with appears mostly to be what benefits her.
Napolitano always has said she supports comprehensive immigration reform, has always said she supports something like the DREAM Act. But look how long it took her and her master, Obama, to get around to seriously addressing either concern.
Of more concern to them has been border security, interior enforcement, the militarization of the border with an increased U.S. Border Patrol presence.
Operation Streamline, which processes 75 newly caught immigrants a day through federal court in Tucson, and costs an estimated $96 million to run there, continues apace, hitting poor migrants with federal criminal charges they barely understand. The U.S. Senate's immigration bill would triple Streamline in Tucson alone.
As Gutierrez points out, Napolitano has been a good soldier for Obama.
"Barack Obama cannot wash his hands of this," Gutierrez insisted. "She may have relished, she may have been creative in inventing these mechanisms of torture [for immigrants]. However, she did so with the approval of the administration."
Napolitano's office eventually took away Arpaio's 287(g) street authority in 2009, largely because of pressure from Latino groups — though the DHS is loath to admit it.
But it maintained his 287(g) authority in the jails, which is all the DHS ever wanted out of Arpaio in the first place.
Sure, the Justice Department investigated Arpaio for civil rights abuses, and the ACLU had a lawsuit under way in federal court, but the DHS needed the warm bodies from Arpaio's jails, which helped it meet and exceed its annual deportation quotas.
The abuses in the jails never stopped, of course. Among many other atrocities, mothers got shackled to beds as they gave birth.
In March 2009, I reported on Maria del Carmen Garcia-Martinez. In MCSO custody, Arpaio's thugs broke her arm as they attempted to get her fingerprint on a federal immigration form. ICE officials later said a fingerprint wasn't necessary on that form and that the MCSO already had her prints from intake.
But, hey, never let it be said that an MCSO beige-shirt turned down an opportunity to break a mother's arm.
Another mom, Celia Alejandra Alvarez Herrera, had her jaw busted by an MCSO deputy, also in 2009, during Arpaio's raid of H.M.I. landscaping, a county contractor.
And yet, Arpaio's goons kept their 287(g) badges in the jails. The 60 officers would not have to surrender 287(g) authority until after Assistant U.S. Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez announced the findings of the DOJ probe into Arpaio's office in late 2011.
In a letter of findings sent to Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, Perez documented a "widespread pattern or practice of law enforcement and jail activities that discriminate against Latinos."
Not long after that bombshell, Napolitano's DHS played catch-up, saying it was jerking Arpaio's 287(g) jail authority because of the DOJ's findings.
Instead, ICE announced, it would deploy agents to the jails so the flow of live bodies wouldn't be impeded.
Literally days later, Marty Atencio, a 44-year-old Army vet suffering from mental illness, was jumped and killed in another of the "jailers' riots" that lawyer Mike Manning has become so expert in litigating. Surveillance footage later was released showing Atencio getting Tased, beaten, and choked.
The federal government never should have teamed up with Arpaio. Napolitano, who engineered the partnership, knew full well what the sheriff is all about.
The folly of this union was made even more plain in May when federal Judge G. Murray Snow ruled in the ACLU civil rights lawsuit Melendres v. Arpaio.
Snow found the sheriff and his officers guilty of racial profiling toward Latinos and ordered them to stop. The two sides in the case now are attempting to hammer out an agreement on how to implement the judge's order — Snow suggested that he wants an independent monitor to oversee the process.
A court hearing to further discuss the matter is set for the end of August. Meanwhile Arpaio is enjoined from enforcing federal, civil immigration law — though state law and federal criminal law are okay.
Arpaio's lawyer, Tim Casey, has said the MCSO is "out of the federal immigration-enforcement business," and he recently told the court, regarding the sheriff's infamous sweeps, that "those have not occurred since October of 2011, and they will not occur."
Arpaio's raids on businesses have not restarted, but the MCSO maintains it still has the right to carry them out.
For the moment, Arpaio has been brought to heel.
Why did Napolitano stall on removing Arpaio's last vestige of immigration authority? Why indeed did she ever partner with him to begin with?
Just some of the many questions that Latino students in the UC system — and the faculty and fellow students who support them — should ask. But their biggest question of all should be why such a predator of Hispanic immigrants was picked to preside over a UC student body that they dominate.
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