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ICYMI: Former DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano Calls for Dreamer Protection

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“These young people are, in every sense but one, as American as those whose relatives arrived in this country on the Mayflower.”

Former Department of Homeland Security Secretary and current University of California president Janet Napolitano pens a new must-read, poignant opinion piece for NBC titled, “I Wrote DACA. Now I’m Suing to Ensure Trump Can’t Destroy It.”

As DHS Secretary when the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program was announced, Napolitano played a critical role in both the drafting and implementation of the program. After Trump rescinded DACA, the University of California Board of Regents and Napolitano filed one of the first lawsuits against DHS.

In the op-ed, Secretary Napolitano recounts the history of DACA, the vital role its play in America’s history, and the renewed urgency for protection for Dreamers. Her piece is excerpted below or available online here.

As president of the 10-campus University of California system, I know who these Dreamers are and who they want to become. Losing them would represent a massive loss for our country — and the huge costs of a deportation process.

Indeed, my faith in DACA has only been strengthened by my experiences leading our nation’s largest public research university system. Our more than 260,000 students are among the most accomplished in the United States. Their backgrounds reflect those of our country as a whole: All but a small fraction are descendants of immigrants or immigrants themselves.

Yet the UC students who have arguably placed the most trust in our federal government — undocumented immigrants who have come out of the shadows to supply verified information about their personal lives — now fear being deported to countries they do not know and whose language they may not even speak.


They are students such as Lizbeth Nuñez, who was born in Sinaloa, Mexico and arrived in California strapped to the back of her mother, who came to work the fields of the state’s agriculturally rich Central Valley. Now Nuñez studies molecular and cell biology with an emphasis in neurobiology at UC Berkeley. She hopes to become a psychopathologist — a brain scientist who studies the physical and physiological causes of mental illness.

Only weeks before starting her first year of classes, Nuñez was picking grapes alongside her mother in the scorching heat outside Bakersfield, California, to earn some extra money for school. This summer, before her second year at Berkeley, she secured a position in a campus research lab, in addition to taking classes and working over the break.

DACA recipients, too, are people such as Yuriana Aguilar, who recently received her Ph.D. in quantitative and systems biology from UC Merced. Aguilar’s research on sudden cardiac death, the country’s most common cause of natural death, centers on T-wave alternans, or TWAs, and how they might predict such heart attacks much earlier than is currently possible and therefore better help people at risk.


In November, the University of California will present its arguments in The Regents of the University of California and Janet Napolitano v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Elaine Duke, and a hearing on the case will likely be held in December.

In the interim, and until Congress passes comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship, we must fight this shortsighted and unlawful move. These young people are, in every sense but one, as American as those whose relatives arrived in this country on the Mayflower.