Janet Napolitano, who has headed the Department of Homeland Security for more than four years, is heading west.
Napolitano is leaving Washington, D.C., for California — the secretary is set to be nominated as president of the University of California system.
According to the Associated Press, she made the unexpected announcement to senior staff on Friday morning.
Directing the Department of Homeland Security since President Barack Obama took office, Napolitano has guided the department through many changes, including the establishment of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows eligible Dreamers to defer removal action from the country and gives them work authorization.
Today, this supporter of comprehensive immigration reform and the path to citizenship leaves in the middle of intense national debate about overhauling the system.
At the beginning of the year, it was reported that Napolitano would be one of the cabinet members to remain in the Obama administration in the president’s second term. Now, she is expected to become the first woman to lead the University of California in the institution’s 145-year history, as the Los Angeles Times reported.
Janet Napolitano considers leading Homeland Security a ‘privilege’
Obama released a statement thanking the secretary for her service and wishing her luck.
“At the Department of Homeland Security, Janet’s portfolio has included some of the toughest challenges facing our country,” the statement said. “She’s worked around the clock to respond to natural disasters, from the Joplin tornado to Hurricane Sandy, helping Americans recover and rebuild. 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.”
Napolitano released a statement calling her service to the Obama administration a “privilege.”
“The opportunity to work with the dedicated men and women of the Department of Homeland Security, who serve on the front lines of our nation’s efforts to protect our communities and families from harm, has been the highlight of my professional career,” she said.