The nation’s top immigration officer said that the “11 million” undocumented aliens in the United States are “not going away,” are “in effect” citizens, and added that deporting the few the administration wants out is unpleasant.
Jeh Johnson, secretary of Homeland Security, told Harvard University students this week that the administration is focused on its plan to integrate illegals into America, despite the policy being tied up in court.
Johnson said that he plans to be in the front row of the Supreme Court April 18 when the case is discussed.
But in the meantime, he is making the case that the illegals here, estimated at a much higher 15.7 million by the Center for Immigration Studies, have essentially become American. The proof: They go to school, have licenses to drive, and can even practice law in California.
“Immigration policy must be two sides of the same coin. On the one hand, we want to reckon with, acknowledge the estimated 11 million undocumented in this country. More than half of the undocumented population of this country has been here for more than 10 years. And millions of them have in effect become integrated members of society, they go to school with us, they have driver’s licenses, they have kids who are U.S. citizens, they have kids who are lawful permanent residents. The California Supreme Court says that an undocumented person has a right to practice law in the state of California. So they are not going away. So do we insist that they live in a state of ambiguity, or do we reckon with this population and give them the opportunity to get on the books and be accountable?”
Addressing the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum Monday night, he also said that the U.S. doesn’t have “open borders,” but added that deporting criminal aliens and others targeted for removal isn’t pleasant.
Johnson said that deportations have dropped because he wants the focus only on criminals, but even then he isn’t a fan of deporting illegals.
“While the number of deportations in the last several years have gone down dramatically, because I’ve told our immigration enforcement personnel to to focus on the convicted criminals, we have a border security obligation to return people after they’ve gone through the process, gone through the litigation process, they’ve litigated their asylum claims, and they have been ordered deported by a court, and if they are our priorities we have to send them back.
“Is it pleasant? Absolutely not. But as long as we have the obligation to enforce the law, we must enforce the law. We can’t have open borders. I know that disappoints many people, but we can’t have open borders,” said Johnson.
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner’s “Washington Secrets” columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org