Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano To Resign

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is stepping down to take charge of the University of California system.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

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And I'm Robert Siegel. The president's cabinet secretary who is responsible for everything from the Coast Guard to the Secret Service to the Federal Emergency Management Agency is stepping down. Janet Napolitano is the longest serving Homeland Security secretary since the department was created 11 years ago. It was formed in response to the September 11th attacks. NPR's Ted Robbins reports Napolitano is leaving to become president of the University of California system.

TED ROBBINS, BYLINE: Janet Napolitano announced that she's resigning as DHS secretary in September. President Obama praised her in a statement. White House spokesman Jay Carney reminded reporters that Napolitano's been with DHS longer than anyone.

JAY CARNEY: Those, you know, four and a half years account for almost half of the existence of the Department of Homeland Security and she's done a remarkable job.

ROBBINS: Homeland Security is a massive cabinet department: 22 agencies are in it, including Customs and Border Protection, FEMA, and the Secret Service. Under Napolitano's watch she's dealt with the Boston bombings, Hurricane Sandy, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the buildup of security on the southern border. James Carafano is on the Homeland Security advisory council and a fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

He says the DHS job is more stressful than most cabinet positions because there's often little warning of disaster and you only get blamed when something goes wrong.

JAMES CARAFANO: It's a completely thankless job. The flipside of that is it's also an extremely rewarding job.

ROBBINS: The rewards, says Carafano, is in leading disaster response and setting policy for operations for the Coast Guard and Border Patrol, among other agencies.

CARAFANO: To be honest, I think she was a good steward of the department, where she was left to be a steward of the department. There were a lot of things that haven't got a lot of press which actually are pretty impressive.

ROBBINS: Improved relationships with Canada and Mexico, for instance. But Napolitano and DHS also got a lot of criticism for its immigration policies: too lenient for some - granting legal status to DREAM Act kids, for instance - too harsh for others. Chris Newman is with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, which advocates for working immigrants.

CHRIS NEWMAN: I think her legacy will be defined by two things, not just the unprecedented deportation rates that she's administered but also the criminalization of immigrants through programs like Secure Communities.

ROBBINS: A number of congressional leaders expressed their appreciation for Napolitano's tenure at DHS, from Democrats like Senate Judiciary chair Patrick Leahy of Vermont, to Republicans like House Homeland Security chair Michael McCaul of Texas, even though McCaul disagreed with Napolitano's claim that the southern border is more secure than ever.

In an interview with NPR last year, Secretary Napolitano said she didn't seem to be getting credit for things like a 40-year low in the number of illegal border crossing apprehensions.

SECRETARY JANET NAPOLITANO: If I were a police chief of a major city and I came in and I said we had reduced crime in four years by 70, 80 percent, people would say that's a great job. You know, you're a great police chief.

ROBBINS: Janet Napolitano came to DHS from Arizona, where she was governor and dealt with illegal immigration. Before that, she was Arizona attorney general and U.S. attorney for Arizona, the state's chief federal prosecutor. She made no secret of wanting to be U.S. attorney general but current AG Eric Holder has stayed on the job.

Now, Janet Napolitano will leave politics - at least temporarily - to become the first female to head one of the nation's largest higher education systems: the University of California. Ted Robbins, NPR News.

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