Homeland Security chief leaving for academic post

Homeland Security chief leaving for academic post

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano listens to a reporter's question during the Reuters Cybersecurity Summit in Washington, May 14, 2013. Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, a vocal supporter of immigration reform who became a target for Republicans, said on Friday she will leave her position to lead the University of California.

It was not clear who would replace her at the helm of the Department of Homeland Security, the third-largest U.S. department with a broad mandate including immigration and disaster response. She plans to leave in early September.

The former Arizona governor has been an outspoken proponent of immigration reform and her announcement came as the U.S. Congress struggled to agree on an overhaul of immigration laws. She also had a prominent role in briefing Congress and the public about terrorism, including after the Boston Marathon bombings in April.

An original member of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet, Napolitano was praised for restoring the Federal Emergency Management Agency to good standing after its disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Obama thanked Napolitano for working “around the clock” to respond to natural disasters including the 2011 Joplin, Missouri, tornado and Hurricane Sandy that battered the Northeast last year, as well as other challenges.

“Since day one, Janet has led my administration’s effort to secure our borders, deploying a historic number of resources, while also taking steps to make our immigration system fairer and more consistent with our values,” Obama said in a statement.

“The American people are safer and more secure thanks to Janet’s leadership,” he said.

Napolitano faced criticism from Republicans who accused her of presenting an overly rosy picture of the administration’s track record on securing the U.S. border. Other critics said she failed to solve problems in her sprawling department, which was voted the least satisfying government agency in which to work.

“The many agencies housed within DHS are only as effective as their leadership, and it is crucial that the administration appoints someone who does not underestimate the threats against us, and who is committed to enforcing the law and creating a unified Department,” said Republican Michael McCaul, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee in the House of Representatives.

The Department of Homeland Security was created in response to the September 11, 2001, attacks. It combined 22 different departments and has more than 240,000 employees focusing on sectors including aviation, border security and cyber-security.

Democrats praised Napolitano for helping to reduce illegal immigration and for supporting a measure last year to relax deportation rules for young people brought to the United States without legal status.

“She did the right thing in exercising her authority to provide temporary relief against deportation for children who were brought to this country through no fault of their own,” said Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy, a Democrat.

Earlier in her career, Napolitano led the investigation into the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing as U.S. attorney for the District of Arizona.

Napolitano thanked Obama for the chance to serve the United States “during this important chapter of our history” and said she was looking forward to her new role focusing on “educating our nation’s next generation of leaders.”

The University of California includes more than 234,000 students and 207,000 faculty at 10 campuses.

Recent Headlines

in Entertainment

Today in entertainment history: Nov. 25


A look at the Hollywood headlines that went down in history.

in Entertainment

The first word of the new ‘Star Wars’ movie is …


Director J.J. reveals the first word spoken in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," which hits theaters next month.

in Entertainment

Jennifer Lawrence named entertainer of the year


The star is one of the biggest and bankable actresses in Hollywood and has featured in a number of blockbusters including the "X-Men" franchise and "The Hunger Games" films.

in Music

Sam Hunt wants to open up country music


Sam Hunt's advice for people who hate country music: give it another try.

in Entertainment

‘Rocky’ successor ‘Creed’ highlights Philadelphia’s revival


Adonis Johnson, the son of Balboa rival-turned-mentor Apollo Creed, leaves behind a life of privilege to walk in the footsteps of a father he never knew.