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    DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson treads careful line on immigration

    By REID J. EPSTEIN | 2/7/14 1:30 PM EST
    POLITICO


    Johnson says undocumented immigrants 'are not going to self-deport.' | M.Scott Mahaskey/POLITICO

    Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson praised House Republicans Friday for finally releasing immigration principles — then quickly pivoted to criticize the idea that undocumented individuals would “self-deport,” as the GOP’s last presidential candidate had suggested they might.

    Johnson’s comments in his first major speech since becoming secretary in December seem to reflect the Obama administration’s current thinking on the fate of comprehensive immigration reform: Officials are leaving room for optimism, and not prematurely beating up on Republicans — but leaving clues that suggest exactly where they believe blame should be directed, should legislation fail.

    “In this regard, the Republicans’ recent statement of principles on immigration is a serious step forward on immigration reform, and contains a lot to work with,” Johnson said in a speech at the Wilson Center. “With both parties’ recognition that our immigration system is broken and needs to be fixed, this should not be an issue used in one way or another for political advantage; rather, we must look to find common sense solutions to a problem we all know we have.”

    Moments later, Johnson cited 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s claim, without mentioning the former Massachusetts governor by name, that strengthening enforcement of immigration laws in the United States could make life so unpleasant for undocumented immigrants that they would “self-deport.”

    “There are an estimated 11.5 million undocumented immigrants living in this country,” he said. “They are not going away. They are not going to self-deport.”

    Johnson made no reference to House Speaker John Boehner’s remarks that it is unlikely immigration reform would pass in 2014. He did say he remains optimistic immigration legislation will pass — though he did not offer a timetable of when it would happen.

    Instead, Johnson maintained the Obama administration’s hands-off approach to the House GOP’s immigration discussion.

    “I don’t have a crystal ball, and there are people who talk to the speaker about this and other issues,” he said. “I’m sure he’s getting no shortage of advice.”

    Johnson did say DHS is already prepping to implement legislation, even though the House GOP has yet to determine what its bill will look like.

    “We’ve already begun thinking about, if the legislation that is contemplated in various different forms becomes law, we’re going to have to implement it,” Johnson said during a question-and-answer session with Wilson Center director Jane Harman. “I believe that we will have comprehensive immigration reform. I don’t have a crystal ball, I don’t know when it will pass, but, I am assuming it will pass, I am optimistic we are preparing for it.”

    Johnson said people should not consider the path to citizenship Obama seeks for the undocumented to be a “special” one — a designation Republicans have opposed.

    “This is not a special path to citizenship as I see it; it is an opportunity to get on line behind those who are here legally,” he said. “This is not rewarding people for breaking the law — it is giving them the opportunity to get right with the law.”

    After praising Congress – “I love Congress,” he said – Johnson also said he will seek to streamline Capitol Hill’s oversight of his department.

    “At some point we’ll have to have a discussion about realigning the jurisdiction of Congress,” he said. “There’s a tremendous amount of oversight, and it needs to be realigned at some point.”

    http://www.politico.com/story/2014/0...on-103260.html
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    New Homeland chief: Agency will be ready for legalization of immigrants

    February 7, 2014
    The Washington Times



    New Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Friday he has tapped his deputy, Alejandro Mayorkas, to prepare the department for an eventual legalization program that would oversee the processing of millions of illegal immigrants into future citizens.

    In his first major policy speech since winning confirmation to the top job in December, Mr. Johnson said he will continue the policies of his predecessor, Janet Napolitano, which put a priority on some illegal immigrants with criminal records for deportation while leaving most illegal immigrants safe from the danger of being expelled from the country.

    But Mr. Johnson also said he doesn’t want immigration reform to be used by either Democrats or Republicans as a political issue.

    As a former top lawyer at the Defense Department, Mr. Johnson had little experience with immigration before taking the Homeland Security post. Last month he took a trip to the border and met with law enforcement, ranchers whose property is being destroyed by illegal activity, and with immigration advocates.

    He said he believes border security has made major strides under President Obama, and said he wants to see Congress act on legalizing illegal immigrants — and giving them a specific path to citizenship.

    “They are not going away. They are not going to self-deport. Most have been here for years. Many have come here as children,” he said. “This is not rewarding people for breaking the law. It is giving them an opportunity to get right with the law. and it is preferable to what we have now.”

    Many Republicans disagree with that assessment.

    GOP leaders last week unveiled their “principles” for an immigration deal, saying that while young illegal immigrants brought to the country by their parents would get a special pathway to citizenship, most illegal immigrants won’t. Republicans argue that doing so would be rewarding illegal behavior.

    They also said this week that they don’t trust the Obama administration to enforce strict new border and interior enforcement laws that would be necessary to make sure there is no future wave of illegal immigrants.

    Mr. Johnson, peaking at the Wilson Center in Washington, was asked what he might do to earn that trust, but he didn’t have an answer. Instead, he said legalizing illegal immigrants is part of protecting the homeland because it would allow his department to run background checks and see who should be allowed to remain in the country.

    Many Republicans have argued that the Homeland Security Department itself has been a roadblock to getting an immigration bill done, since it was unable to provide information or even to define standards for a secure border.

    Ms. Napolitano and her top lieutenants also faced criticism from immigration agents and officers who felt her policies tied their hands in enforcing the law.

    While acknowledging moral problems in some agencies, Mr. Johnson said he will continue those policies which he said “prioritize” the way money is spent so that it focuses deporting those with criminal records or repeat immigration violators.

    His move to put Mr. Mayorkas in charge of getting the department ready for a mass legalization signals that he is preparing for the potential passage of a law in Congress this year.

    “We’re beginning to think about what we need to do to get ready for this. This is an advanced planning team effort to anticipate what the department needs to do,” Mr. Johnson said.

    Mr. Mayorkas, the new deputy secretary, is a natural choice for that task, since he was previously the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is the agency in the department charged with approving immigration and visa applications.

    But the labor union representing USCIS officers and adjudicators says its members are far from being ready to handle the potentially 11 million applications for legal status and possibly citizenship that could come with any new legalization program.

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    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/...#ixzz2sfMVuVBB
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