How much will Napolitano’s departure affect immigration reform’s prospects? Not much.

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 23: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill April 23, 2013 in Washington, DC. Napolitano answered questions from senators about the proposed immigration reform legislation and the Boston Marathon bombing suspects. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in April 2013. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

One of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's selling points when she joined the administration was that as a border-state governor, she could help improve border security. Now that she's leaving, how will that affect the prospects for immigration reform?

Not much.

Marshall Fitz, director of immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, said in an interview that while Napolitano had good relations with several members of the Senate, she's less relevant because the fight has now moved over to the House.

"They've acted as if she hasn't done anything to shore up enforcement at the border," Fitz noted, which undercuts the kind of argument the administration has continued to make as it presses for a major legislative overhaul. "They detest her, and they've made that clear."

Furthermore, the current nominee for DHS deputy secretary Alejandro Majorkas, who is a contender to replace Napolitano, is deeply steeped in the immigration issue because he's headed the department’s Citizenship and Immigration Services since 2009. "It's not like there's a leadership vacuum, and in fact, he's better positioned to steer that process forward from his new path," Fitz said.

And Janet Murguia, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, noted that the most important factor working in favor of immigration reform is President Obama's commitment to the issue. "It’s pretty clear this is a top priority for the president," she said.

In fact, Frank Sharry, head of pro-immigration group America’s Voice, told Greg Sargent on Friday that Napolitano's departure could actually boost immigration's prospects if administration officials "pick an outsider with unimpeachable enforcement credentials" to replace her.

So if immigration reform fails this Congress, no one can blame Napolitano for its demise.

Juliet Eilperin is a White House correspondent for The Washington Post, covering domestic and foreign policy as well as the culture of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She is the author of two books—one on sharks, and another on Congress, not to be confused with each other—and has worked for the Post since 1998.
Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Politics
Next Story
Chris Cillizza · July 12, 2013