Former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who served in the Obama administration, has asserted that President Donald Trump's heated immigration rhetoric has prompted a dramatic reduction in illegal border crossings into the U.S. The former official also urged the current administration to treat undocumented immigrants with compassion.
On July 7, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection released a report estimating that the number of undocumented immigrants apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border had dropped by 53 percent from October 2016 through June 2017, the Washington Examiner reports.
"Through his rhetoric, [Trump] scared off a lot of women and children in Central America who'd rather stay in their desperate circumstances or just migrate to Mexico and stop there," Johnson told CNN on July 20.
On July 17, National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd praised the Trump administration's approach to immigration.
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"What we've seen is nothing short of miraculous," Judd told C-SPAN. "If you look at the rhetoric that President Trump has given, it's caused the number of illegal border crossers to go down, something that we've never seen in history at the Border Patrol."
"We’ve got a set of laws on the books that say: 'If you cross the border illegally, or if you commit this crime, these are the consequences that have been established," Judd added. "And the Trump administration said ... 'We are going to follow through on those consequences,' something we didn’t see in the last four years in the last administration."
Johnson had a less rosy view of Trump's rhetoric, asserting that the majority of border crossers were not criminals but women and children fleeing a destabilized Central America.
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"But these are really desperate women and children, women with babies in their arms, who are trying to flee the poverty and violence in the countries they left," Johnson continued.
Johnson recalled that he had ordered immigration agents to prioritize the arrest and deportation of undocumented immigrants who had been charged with felonies. The former DHS secretary urged the Trump administration to do the same.
"When you enforce immigration laws, you have to be able to look yourself in the mirror, look your own family in the eye, recall the women and children who are desperate to say: 'I did my best to enforce the law consistent with our priorities and consistent with our values,'" Johnson said.
"We've got to protect our borders," Johnson concluded. "We've got to enforce the law. But we've got to do it in a humane way."