Outgoing Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s long goodbye ended Tuesday with a farewell speech in which she urged Congress to pass some form of amnesty for the 11 million or so illegal aliens now living in the United States.
Napolitano said unilateral grants of amnesty, either through her own self-willed enforcement oversights or through President Barack Obama’s threat to bypass Congress, are no substitutes for legislation that would structure a systematic plan whereby illegal aliens could know what to expect as they walk a path toward U.S. citizenship.
In particular, Napolitano called on Congress to devise legislation that accommodates “dreamers” — the youngest generation of illegal aliens who, as children, entered the country with their parents. Dreamers know no life outside of the one they’ve lived inside the United States, despite remaining undocumented throughout their young lives and their ongoing status as illegal aliens.
Napolitano criticized Congress for failing to tackle what she called “common-sense immigration enforcement priorities,” which, she said, would devote enforcement resources to “criminals, national security and public safety threats” instead of the deportation of workaday illegal aliens.
“Congress had a chance to give these so-called dreamers a way to stay in our country through the Dream Act, but unfortunately, that legislation failed to garner the 60 votes needed for cloture, falling just five votes short, despite strong bipartisan support,” Napolitano said.
The Dream (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act was proposed in a very different political climate, coming early in George W. Bush’s first term and only a month before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. Napolitano’s remarks referred to a 2007 Senate iteration of the bill, which fell short of defeating a filibuster by a 52-44 cloture vote.
Napolitano defended DHS’ handling of illegal immigration during her tenure, saying Congressional gridlock on immigration reform had justified her liberal interpretation of her own powers as DHS Secretary and had freed her to exercise “prosecutorial discretion” under the Obama Administration to stop the ticking clock counting down the length of time “dreamers” can remain in the United States.
Napolitano, a former Arizona Governor, will take up her new position as the president of the University of California system next week. To her yet-unnamed DHS successor, she advised “a large bottle of Advil.”