Napolitano Pick Ruffles Sagehen Feathers

A group of concerned parties met with Pomona College President David Oxtoby this week, voicing their disapproval of the selection of Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano as this year's impending commencement speaker. The reaction stems from immigration policy decisions made by Napolitano that students and organizers view as harmful to the community at large.

The group consisted of two Pomona students, Nick Gerber PO’10, Andrew Halladay PO’10; Suzanne Foster, head of the Pomona Economic Opportunity Center; an organization offering organizational and advocacy skills for day laborers; Jose Calderon, Professor of Sociology and Chicano/Latino studies at Pitzer; and Jose Diaz, a day laborer and organizer. The response originates from community members who have been organizing against some of the polices enacted by Napolitano in her capacity at Homeland Security. In particular, they have focused on the 287(g) program and the Secure Communities program, which empower local police forces to carry out immigration duties, and automatically verify every arrested person’s criminal and immigration records, respectively. The ACLU has urged Immigration and Customs Enforcement to halt implementation of both programs, and claims on their website that, “quite contrary to the program’s name, Secure Communities has the potential to greatly reduce public safety.”

Due to these policies, the group requested that Napolitano's invitation to speak be rescinded. Group members were encouraged by Oxtoby’s acknowledgement that there have been some changes in Napolitano’s role since the invitation was extended nine months ago, and his willingness to discuss the issue with senior faculty and trustees. But they admit it is unlikely the offer will be revoked. “It’s a bit late in the game, so we’re just trying to raise awareness. [Oxtoby] has a responsibility to his trustees and his people, but we feel we have a responsibility to the community,” said Gerber. Oxtoby, when asked for comment said, “I had a good meeting with some thoughtful students and community members and they shared their concerns with me.”

Though group members wish to announce their displeasure at Napolitano’s impending arrival, they assured the Forum they have no plans to disrupt the commencement ceremony. Said Gerber: “[we] don’t want to ruin anyone’s graduation. It’s not about targeting families, or students, it’s targeting her, and her policies.” The group will focus on raising campus awareness and informing students, with an emphasis on seniors, of their views on the issues raised by Napolitano’s policy initiatives.