Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson called for “comprehensive, common sense, immigration reform” at the United States Conference of Mayors on Friday.
“An earned path to citizenship for those currently present in this country is a matter of, in my view, homeland security to encourage people to come out from the shadows,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s public remarks to some 270 mayors assembled in Dalals were some of his first since being confirmed as DHS chief in December. He called it “a matter of who we are as Americans” to offer citizenship to people who want it, particularly those who came as children.
Johnson emphasized that reinforcing the border and reforming immigration policy were twin missions for the DHS. He had just visited South Texas to discuss keeping the border secure while allowing tourists to pass efficiently, after immigration numbers showed that the Rio Grande Valley had the most immigrant arrests in 2013.
“Common sense immigration reform is supported by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, businesses, and if the polls (are) to be believed, the majority of the American people,” he said. “Border security is inseparable from homeland security.”
“And border security must and should be part of comprehensive immigration reform – protecting our borders, securing our ports, promoting the lawful flow of trade and travel through our ports to cities and other communities,” he continued.
Emphasizing the importance of providing a path to citizenship, Johnson said the DHS should encourage people “to come out from the shadows, to be accountable, to participate in the American experience, the American society.”