Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson made it clear during a recent speech that he is not supportive of the rhetoric presidential candidates are using on immigration, particularly regarding the idea of building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and instilling fear about unauthorized immigrants.
“All of us in public office, those who aspire to public office and who command a microphone owe the public calm, responsible dialogue and decision-making,” Johnson said during his speech Oct. 7 at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s annual conference, according to The Washington Post. “Not overheated, over simplistic rhetoric and proposals of superficial appeal.
“In a democracy, the former leads to smart and sustainable policy. The latter can lead to fear, hate, suspicion, prejudice and government overreach. These words are especially true in matters of homeland security and they are especially true in matters of immigration policy.”
Johnson added that there has been an increase of Central American illegal border migrants in the past three months, but that apprehensions along the U.S.-Mexico border have dropped to a level not seen since the early 1970s.
He also cited a 2013 Pew Research poll that showed 55 percent of respondents thought there was more illegal immigration occurring than the decade before, when in fact, government figures show it has declined.
Johnson did not name specific presidential candidates who he believes are not showing political civility, but one comment he made was clearly in response to a proposal Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has made time and time again.
“Building a wall across the entire Southwest border is not the answer” to illegal immigration, Johnson said.
He thinks more technology for border security may be the answer.
Johnson, siding with the Obama Administration, added that Congress should include a $1 billion aid package for Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras in the next spending bill. The aid package is critical, he said, to help address “underlying causes of illegal immigration from Central America.”
“The unaccompanied kids is a heartbreaking phenomenon, so we can put a lot on the border, we can put a lot of my people on the border, the governor of Texas can put a lot of people on his border, but that doesn’t address the underlying problem in these countries,” Johnson said.
Deporting a large number of illegal immigrants who are currently living in the U.S., something multiple GOP candidates have stated they support, is not something Johnson sees as happening in the future.
“Notwithstanding the political rhetoric, we are not going to deport 11 million people,” Johnson said. “We’re not going to deport a population equal in size to New York City and Chicago. They live among us, we know them, they’re becoming integrated members of society.”
There will be a decrease in deportations in 2015, Johnson added, because Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers are focusing on convicted criminals, gang members, recent border-crossers, threats to national security, and other high-priority individuals. Between March and August, 84 percent of those deported were classified in the top-priority category.
"The number of removals by ICE is down, but we are using those resources to invest in going after threats to public safety, and that takes more time," Johnson said, according to the Huffington Post. "It's not just simply rounding everybody up you can find to pump up your numbers."