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Janet Napolitano was the Democratic governor of Arizona before becoming Secretary of Homeland Security under Barack Obama in 2009.
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She also directed school boards to issue construction plans for building 21st century schools. Governor Napolitano was also an outspoken critic of the federal government’s immigration policies and pushed for tougher penalties for employers who hire illegal immigrants. She implemented one of the first state homeland security strategies in the nation and opened a counter-terrorism center.
Janet Napolitano also made a reputation for herself setting a record for the total number of vetoes in a single session (58) and during her second term as governor she issued record 115 vetoes. Among these was a bill to crack down on employers who hired illegal aliens and authorized police to arrest illegal immigrants on trespassing charges for merely being in the state. She said the bill was too weak at penalizing guilty employers and enforcing the trespassing law would overwhelm police.
On January 11, 2008, Janet Napolitano endorsed then-Senator Barack Obama for president. After the election, she was appointed to the Obama-Biden transition team and in January, 2009, was nominated and confirmed as United States Secretary of Homeland Security. While serving as Secretary, she has forged new partnerships with international allies and expanded information sharing with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.
However, in her first year as Secretary, Napolitano suffered from several bouts of “misspeak.” In April, 2009, she incorrectly claimed the 9/11 terrorists entered the United States from Canada, provoking an angry response from the Canadian ambassador. That same month, the Department of Homeland Security produced an internal threat assessment report that cited "disgruntled returning military veterans" as possible targets for recruitment by right-wing extremist groups. Napolitano made multiple apologies for any offense experienced by veterans in the assessment and promised to meet to discuss the report. The American Legion criticized the report while the Veterans of Foreign Wars praised it, though they agreed it could have been worded differently.
Then, in late December, 2009, in an interview with CNN’s Candy Crowley discussing the attempted terrorist attack of the “underwear bomber” who tried to detonate explosives hidden in his underwear on a flight landing in Detroit, Napolitano claimed “the system worked.” She later indicated her remarks were taken out of context and that that the system indeed had failed, and extensive review was under way.
Secretary Janet Napolitano continues to work on counterterrorism, border security and making sure the country is prepared and ready to respond to any threat. She continues to build upon the skills and resources of the young Department of Homeland Security deploying the necessary science and technology, forging partnerships between state, local and tribal governments, and the private sector to make the Department better equipped to protect the nation.
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When the 19th Amendment was ratified, women were finally given the right to vote, and over the years many courageous women have stepped onto the national political stage as well. In 1916, Jeannette Rankin became the first woman elected to Congress and almost a century later Sonia Sotomayor became the first Latina woman to serve on the Supreme Court. And within the last two decades, the esteemable Hillary Clinton has served as First Lady, a New York senator and Secretary of State. These women, and many more, are setting the stage for the future of female leaders in Washington.
Visit Biography.com's Women's History group to explore more biographies, photos and videos of some the world's most fascinating women."
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