Wall Street Journal
By Laura Meckler
December 1, 2014
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson defends the administration’s executive action on immigration as “simple common sense” and says he personally recommended each of the policies that impact his department—which is to say, the heart of the controversial policy announced last month by President Barack Obama.
In testimony prepared for the House Homeland Security Committee, where he is scheduled to appear on Tuesday, Mr. Johnson outlines the changes and explains why he supports them.
After weeks of shadow boxing, the hearing is the first opportunity for Republicans angry about the executive action to directly confront one of the people responsible for it.
Under the most controversial part of the Obama program, about four million people living in the U.S. illegally will qualify for temporary reprieve from deportation and work permits. To qualify, someone must have been in the U.S. for at least five years, have a child who is a citizen or legal permanent resident and not otherwise be considered a priority for deportation.
“The reality is that, given our limited resources, these people are not priorities for removal,” Mr. Johnson says in his prepared remarks. “It’s time we acknowledge that and encourage them to be held accountable. This is simply common sense.”
He also emphasizes those who will be considered priorities for removal, including people apprehended at the border and anyone who came after Jan. 1, 2014, as well as people convicted of crimes, criminal street gang members and national security threats.
Mr. Johnson, who has been mentioned as a possible nominee for Defense Secretary, makes clear that he supports the president’s actions.
“I recommended to the president each of the Homeland Security reforms to the immigration system that he has decided to pursue,” he said. He said that his recommendations were the result of “extended and candid” conversations with a wide range of interested parties.
He also renewed the administration’s call for Congress to act on immigration legislation.
The chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Michael McCaul (R., Texas) says in his own prepared remarks that Congress will take up immigration but in its own way.
“Congress will address immigration reform. But we will do so in an intelligent way, and in keeping with the wishes of the American people,” he said. He said the president’s actions “undermine the Constitution and threaten our democracy,” and are not supported by the public.
He added that a “permissive interior enforcement environment” under Mr. Obama, “coupled with even the perception of amnesty” is encouraging people to come to the U.S. illegally. “We essentially tell citizens of other countries if you come here, you can stay – don’t worry, we won’t deport you.”
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