Agree with her on the issues or not, you have to admit that Janet Napolitano possesses an unmatched perspective on some of Arizona’s most urgent challenges. And whether on the subject of immigration enforcement or balancing security with liberty, Napolitano offered her solutions in a confident, almost matter-of-fact manner Thursday night at ASU. In return, the crowd — seemingly all supporters — gave her repeated rounds of standing applause.
This wasn’t Napolitano’s first trip back to Arizona, and it’s clear that she enjoys the homecomings. Her speech and a Q&A session moderated by ASU President Michael Crow mixed serious issues with humor. Crow introduced her the way any proud family member introduces the prodigal son — or in this case daughter — deeming her a gifted leader, courageous intellect and a national asset. Napolitano didn’t spare any compliments for her hosts either.
The Homeland Security secretary and former governor’s speech didn’t contain anything surprising. She outlined the five central missions that DHS is currently pursuing under her guidance, fully parsing each in such a way that she could give an example of why it’s a problem, how they intend to pursue it and what milestones have recently been achieved or will be achieved in that pursuit.
The elephant in the room, though, was immigration. And while the Department of Homeland Security is not even ten years old, Arizonans know it coincides with immigration enforcement. It makes sense that she returned to the topic and that a large portion of the audience responded to any word on the issue.
Napolitano gave unambiguous assurances that immigration reform remains a priority for the current administration.
Her broad descriptions outlined a plan that will include a path to citizenship for many of those already in the U.S. and an overhaul of the immigration system, so legal status can be an attainable goal.
Napolitano pointed out that with the current makeup of Congress, bi-partisanship will simply have to be part of the process. She appeared wholly optimistic, though, because of the serious impact immigration policy has on the country, and because it is so clearly broken.
ASU President Michael Crow moderated the Q&A session after the speech, reading audience submitted questions. Most of them related to immigration, but Crow also snuck in a few questions just to get laughs.
With his signature coy smile, Crow asked whether Napolitano would have a better chance running for the state Senate seat against Hayworth or McCain. After the audience stopped laughing, Napolitano answered only, “next.”
- By Evan Wyloge