This article is about the American politician. For the alternative rock musician, see Johnette Napolitano
"Secretary Napolitano" redirects here. For the former Italian President and regional Secretary of the Italian Communist Party, see Giorgio Napolitano
Prior to her election as governor, she served as Attorney General of Arizona
from 1999 to 2003. She was the first woman and the 23rd person to serve in that office. Napolitano had earlier served as the United States Attorney
for the District of Arizona
. She has been the first woman to serve in several offices, including Attorney General of Arizona, Secretary of Homeland Security, and president of the University of California.
Janet Napolitano was born on November 29, 1957, in New York City, the daughter of Jane Marie (née Winer) and Leonard Michael Napolitano, who was the dean of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine
Her father was of Italian
descent and her mother had German and Austrian ancestry.
Her grandfather was named Filippo Napolitano.
Early political career
While serving as attorney general, she spoke at the 2000 Democratic National Convention
just three weeks after having a mastectomy
. Napolitano recalled that the pain was so unbearable that she could not stand up. "Work and family helped me focus on other things while I battled the cancer," says Napolitano. "I am very grateful for all the support I had from family, friends and Arizonans."
Governor of Arizona
In 2002, Napolitano narrowly won the gubernatorial election
with 46 percent of the vote, succeeding Republican Jane Dee Hull
and defeating her Republican opponent, former congressman Matt Salmon
, who received 45 percent of the vote. She was Arizona's third female governor
and the first female elected governor in the United States to succeed another elected female governor.
She was also the first Democrat popularly elected to the governorship since Bruce Babbitt
left office in 1987, and the first female governor of Arizona to be elected outright.
As Governor, Napolitano set records for total number of vetoes
issued. In 2005, she set a single-session record of 58 vetoes, breaking Jane Dee Hull
's 2001 record of 28.
This was followed in June 2006, less than four years into her term, when she issued her 115th veto and set the all-time record for vetoes by an Arizona governor. The previous record of 114 vetoes was set by Bruce Babbitt
during his nine years in office.
By the time she left office, Napolitano had issued 180 vetoes.
Napolitano supported many educational initiatives. She successfully negotiated the creation of voluntary full-day kindergarten in Arizona. The state previously only funded half-day programs.
She created a literacy program, and acquired funding for an increase in teacher salaries.
She spearheaded significant investments in higher education, including funding a Phoenix
campus for the University of Arizona College of Medicine.
She also built the state's rainy day fund to more than $650 million, at the time the highest ever.
She played a leading role in the successful bid to host Super Bowl
XLII in Glendale, Arizona, expanded the number of teams in the Cactus league
and invested heavily in tourism and economic development initiatives.
She was one of the first governors to call for the National Guard at the border after declaring a state emergency related to border security.
In November 2006, Napolitano was re-elected as governor
, defeating the Republican challenger, Len Munsil
, by a nearly 2:1 ratio. She was the first woman to be re-elected to that office and the first gubernatorial candidate in state history to win every county and every legislative district in Arizona. Arizona's constitution limits its governors to two consecutive terms,
so Napolitano would not have been eligible to seek a third term in office in 2010.
Secretary of Homeland Security
Napolitano announcing a border security task force.
In February 2006, Napolitano was named by The White House Project
as one of "8 in '08", a group of eight female politicians who were suggested as possible candidates for president in 2008.
On January 11, 2008, she endorsed then Illinois Senator Barack Obama
as the Democratic nominee for president.
On November 5, 2008, she was named to the advisory board of the Obama-Biden Transition Project
In March 2009, Napolitano told the German news site Der Spiegel
that while there is always a threat from terrorism, she preferred to talk about "man-caused' disasters" as a way "to move away from the politics of fear toward a policy of being prepared for all risks that can occur."
In April 2009, in an interview defending her plans to tighten the Canada–US border
, Napolitano incorrectly implied that the September 11 attack
perpetrators entered the United States from Canada. This claim was made by several politicians based upon erroneous news reports in the days after the attack. Napolitano explained that she misunderstood the question and was referring to other individuals who had planned attacks and entered through Canada, but Canadian diplomats rebuked her for helping perpetuate a myth.
In response to criticism, she later said that while she knew no 9/11 terrorists entered the U.S. through Canada, "there are other instances … when suspected terrorists have attempted to enter our country from Canada to the United States... [s]ome of these are well known to the public, such as the millennium bomber, while others are not due to security reasons." There has only been one publicly reported case of terrorists coming to the United States through Canada, that of Ahmed Ressam
, an Algerian citizen who was in Canada illegally. Nevertheless, Napolitano later claimed that "Canada allows people into its country that we do not allow into ours" as a justification for treating the Mexican and Canadian borders equally.
As Secretary, Napolitano was a central leader in the federal response to the 2009 flu epidemic
Rather than closing schools and businesses, which would have led to wide-scale disruption, Napolitano advanced a strategy of proactive education for prevention. This included a basic virus-prevention education program.
Ultimately, as a result of the programs implemented by Napolitano and others, much of the damage expected from this flu was mitigated.
Right-wing extremism memo
Napolitano was the subject of controversy after the release of a Department of Homeland Security threat assessment
report that was seen as derogatory towards armed forces veterans.
The report focused on potential threats from the radical right. Rightwing
] Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment
was made public in April 2009. The report suggested several factors, including the election of the first black
or mixed race
president in Barack Obama, concerns regarding future gun control
measures, illegal immigration
, the economic downturn beginning in 2008, abortion controversy
, and disgruntled military veterans' possible vulnerability to recruitment efforts by extremist groups as potential risk factors regarding right-wing extremism recruitment.
Napolitano made multiple apologies for offending veterans groups by the reference to veterans in the assessment, and promised to meet with those groups to discuss the issue.
The Department of Homeland Security admitted a "breakdown in an internal process" by ignoring objections by the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties to a portion of the document.
While the American Legion
reportedly criticized the assessment, Glen M. Gardner Jr., the national commander of the 2.2 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars, generally defended it, saying it "should have been worded differently" but served a vital purpose. "A government that does not assess internal and external security threats would be negligent of a critical public responsibility", he said in a statement.
Reaction to Northwest Airlines Flight 253
Napolitano was criticized
for stating in an interview with CNN's Candy Crowley
that "the system worked" with regard to an attempted terrorist attack on Northwest Airlines Flight 253
approaching Detroit on Christmas Day 2009. She said:
What we are focused on is making sure that the air environment remains safe, that people are confident when they travel. And one thing I'd like to point out is that the system worked. Everybody played an important role here. The passengers and crew of the flight took appropriate action. Within literally an hour to 90 minutes of the incident occurring, all 128 flights in the air had been notified to take some special measures in light of what had occurred on the Northwest Airlines flight. We instituted new measures on the ground and at screening areas, both here in the United States and in Europe, where this flight originated. So the whole process of making sure that we respond properly, correctly and effectively went very smoothly.
She later went on NBC's Today Show
with host Matt Lauer
and admitted that the security system had indeed failed.
She said that her earlier statement was "taken out of context" and maintained "air travel is safe", but admitted, "our system did not work in this instance" and no one "is happy or satisfied with that".
Lauer then asked her whether the system failed up until the moment the bomber had tried to blow up the plane, and Napolitano answered, "It did [fail]."
In response to the NW253 bomb attempt, Napolitano instituted emergency enhanced pat-down screening until airport security technology could be deployed that could detect non-metallic explosives. After full body scanners
were deployed, the enhanced pat-downs were used selectively on passengers who triggered an alarm when passing through the detection equipment.
TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry
To reduce the time consumed by airport security checks Napolitano created the popular program TSA Pre Check
, which allows travelers to provide background information about themselves to the Transportation Security Administration
(TSA) in return for expedited security screening.
TSA Pre-Check reduces the number of unknown passengers arriving at security screening lines in airports. She also expanded the U.S. Customs and Border Protection
trusted traveler program, Global Entry, to include more American travelers and some from verified partners abroad.
, or SComm, is a deportation program managed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
, a subdivision of Homeland Security. Napolitano came under scrutiny for contradicting herself about whether the program is voluntary or mandatory for local jurisdictions. On September 7, 2010, Napolitano said in a letter to Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren
that jurisdictions that wished to withdraw from the program could do so. However, in October 2010 a Washington Post
article quoted an anonymous senior ICE official saying: "Secure Communities is not based on state or local cooperation in federal law enforcement ... State and local law enforcement agencies are going to continue to fingerprint people and those fingerprints are forwarded to FBI for criminal checks. ICE will take immigration action appropriately."
Napolitano later modified her position: "What my letter said was that we would work with them on the implementation in terms of timing and the like ... But we do not view this as an opt-in, opt-out program."
At the same time Arlington, Virginia
passed a resolution to opt out of SComm.
A DHS employee commented at a policy conference: "Have we created some of the confusion out there? Absolutely we have."
Under Napolitano's leadership, the DHS invested heavily in border security and border security technology.
These investments included a border security supplement passed by Congress to fund an increase in technology and infrastructure along the southern border with Mexico. This technology was used to replace Boeing's SBI Net
which was widely criticized as expensive and dysfunctional.
Printer bomb attempt
On December 6, 2010, Walmart
announced it was partnering with the DHS.
The partnership included a video message from Napolitano on TV screens in Walmart stores playing a "public service announcement" to ask customers to report suspicious activity to a Walmart manager. Napolitano compared the undertaking to "the Cold War
fight against communists
On January 12, 2011, together with President Barack Obama, Napolitano was one of the speakers selected to express sympathy to the community of Tucson
, the State of Arizona
, and the rest of the nation in a televised memorial for the 2011 Tucson shooting
Suzanne Barr, who was one of Napolitano's first appointments after she became secretary in 2009, went on leave after Hayes filed his lawsuit and resigned on September 1, 2012. She called the allegations in the lawsuit "unfounded."
In November 2012, Hayes' attorney said that the "parties have come to an agreement in principle" to settle the case for $175,000 plus a settlement that would include other conditions, including Hayes keeping his job.
DACA and comprehensive immigration reform
Napolitano was a long-term advocate for comprehensive immigration reform, starting with her terms as governor of Arizona.
In 2012, in an effort to provide relief for the so-called DREAM Act
population, or DREAMers, Napolitano used prosecutorial discretion to create the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
DREAMers were brought to the U.S. by their parents as minors and have no experience of living in their countries of citizenship.
The program deferred removal proceedings against DREAMers, providing them with the legal status to remain in the United States without fear of deportation.
DACA was announced by President Obama in a Rose Garden
ceremony shortly after its creation. It was criticized by some members of Congress as an abuse of executive authority.
Napolitano's successor, Jeh Johnson
, later attempted to expand the program to include parents of DREAMers, but that expansion was subsequently overturned in courts.
As of 2019 DACA remains in place and has never been found unconstitutional by a U.S. court.
University of California
In July 2013, Napolitano announced she would leave her post as Secretary of Homeland Security to become president of the University of California
She was appointed the 20th president by the University of California Board of Regents on July 18, 2013, the first woman to lead the University of California,
and began her tenure as president on September 30, 2013.
On September 18, 2019, Napolitano announced her resignation as president, effective August 1, 2020. She plans to then teach at the Goldman School of Public Policy
at University of California, Berkeley
, where she is a tenured professor.
Among her first acts as president was the allocation of more support for UC's undocumented students, and expanded efforts to diversify the ranks of UC graduate students and post-doctoral researchers.
She also initiated an ambitious ongoing plan for the ten-campus system to achieve carbon neutrality
by 2025, saying that it was a 'moral imperative' for UC to find solutions to global climate change. In seeking to reduce UC's carbon footprint to zero, Napolitano authorized the university to register as an Electric Service Provider, allowing it to supply energy directly to some of its campuses and medical centers from an 80-MW solar farm in Fresno
In 2017, Napolitano was awarded the Pat Brown Award from the California Council for Environmental and Economic Balance for her environmental leadership.
Napolitano has used her tenure as president to encourage more students to pursue public interest careers. She created a fund for fellowships for undergraduate students to offset costs related to public service internships in Sacramento and Washington D.C. She also created the President's Public Service Law Fellowship program, which awards $4.5 million annually to law students at UC Berkeley
, UC Davis
, UC Irvine
to make postgraduate work and summer positions more accessible for students who wish to pursue public interest legal careers but might be forced to seek private sector jobs out of financial need.
As part of her Global Food Initiative, which was launched in 2014, Napolitano committed $3.3 million to help students at the University of California access nutritious food. At the time it was the nation's most comprehensive, systematic plan to tackle the problem of food insecurity.
Napolitano led efforts to combat sexual violence and harassment at the University of California through improvements to the system's policies and procedures. On March 7, 2014 Napolitano wrote a letter to the UC community announcing a new presidential policy prohibiting sexual harassment and violence and providing support for victims and training for faculty, staff and students.
She also created a system-wide Title IX
office and appointed the first system-wide Title IX coordinator in January 2017.
On October 26, 2017 the University of California announced the establishment of the National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement. Chaired by Napolitano, the center is devoted to research, education and advocacy on issues of free speech and civic engagement.
During Napolitano's time as president of UC, tuition for undergraduates has held steady, with one tuition increase of $282 in 2017.
Napolitano campaigning for Hillary Clinton
in Phoenix, Arizona on October 30, 2016.
In April 2016, Napolitano placed Linda Katehi
, the chancellor of UC Davis
, on administrative leave following revelations that UC Davis attempted to suppress web searches relating to the UC Davis pepper-spray incident
, as well as charges of nepotism and allegation of misuse of student funds.
On April 25, 2017 the California State Auditor issued a report that Janet Napolitano and her University of California Office of the President failed to disclose $175 million and engaged in misleading budget practices
After an investigation, the University of California took disciplinary action against Napolitano, issuing a public admonishment.
According to an independent report by retired State Supreme Justice Carlos R. Moreno
, Napolitano approved a plan that pressured the ten UC campuses to change their survey responses about Napolitano's administration from negative responses to positive ones.
On September 8, 2017 the University of California and Janet Napolitano filed a lawsuit
against the United States Federal Government in response to President Trump's
decision to ultimately end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
making her the first former Secretary of Homeland Security to sue the agency she once led over a policy that she created.
In 2020, Janet Napolitano fired 82 UC Santa Cruz graduate students for withholding grades in a wildcat strike for a Cost of Living Adjustment
to address untenable living conditions.
Dismissed students also face loss of tuition remission, health benefits, and living stipends in one of the most expensive counties in the United States, and international students face loss of student visa status.
Speculation on other appointments
Napolitano has never married or had children; as a result, some of her political opponents have speculated about her sexual orientation. In 2002, "vote gay
" fliers were posted next to her campaign signs. Napolitano responded by saying that she is "just a straight, single workaholic
Napolitano began undergoing cancer
-related treatment in August 2016.
On January 17, 2017, Napolitano was hospitalized in Oakland due to complications from the cancer treatment.
She was released from hospital on January 23, 2017.
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Last edited on 16 May 2021, at 09:56
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