Napolitano Varnishes Her Immigration Record With Aid to DREAMers

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Janet Napolitano, the president of the University of California system, will set aside $5 million in funds to provide counseling and aid to undocumented immigrants attending UC schools.

Here’s why that’s important: undocumented students can’t receive federal financial aid or private loans.

And while some DREAMers have special permission from the Obama administration to work legally, others don’t qualify or haven’t applied. That means that aren’t able to work to pay for their education, as if that isn’t hard enough already.


The move is more than just a gesture of goodwill for Napolitano. It’s a chance to help rewrite her biography when it comes to immigration policy.

During her four-year tenure as head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), she oversaw an average of roughly 400,000 deportations annually, historic highs. Because of that, she became the target of ire for many immigrant-rights groups.

At the same time, she revolutionized the way the agency pursued its cases, making criminal immigrants a higher priority for deportation than non-criminals and people with ties to the United States.

She walked away from DHS with a checkered record on immigration, that’s undeniable. And UC student activists haven't let the public forget that.


Her new gig at UC gives her a chance to refine that image, and the earmarked funds for undocumented students shows that she wants to be remembered more as a champion of immigrants than CEO of a deportation machine.

Ted Hesson was formerly the immigration editor at Fusion, covering the issue from Washington, D.C. He also writes about drug laws and (occasionally) baseball. On the side: guitars, urban biking, and fiction.

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