Jeh Johnson, who President Obama nominated to head up the Department of Homeland Security, defended the Senate’s comprehensive amnesty bill in a letter to Republican senators. The letter also defended the Administration’s use of prosecutorial discretion to forego deportation for certain groups of illegal aliens.
Politico, a Capitol Hill newspaper, obtained a copy of the letter Johnson sent to Senate Republicans. The letter answers a number of questions Senate Republican posed during the confirmation process.
Johnson said he supports S. 744, the Senate-passed comprehensive amnesty bill. “I believe reform must be comprehensive and include provisions that allow the federal government to continue efforts to strengthen border security, target employers who hire undocumented workers and modernize the immigration system itself,” Johnson wrote. “ I also believe that, as part of reform, we should provide an earned pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in this country.”
Johnson further stated, “I agree that the earned pathway to citizenship should include a background check, learning English, paying taxes, paying taxes, paying penalties, and getting in line behind everyone else who is trying to come to the United States through existing legal processes.” However, S. 744 does not require illegal aliens to learn English and would only require back taxes for those who filed tax returns while working illegally in the United States. And the line in which illegal aliens would wait remains in the country, unlike others seeking legal entry.
Commenting on the Administration’s prosecutorial discretion policy, Johnson stated, “I believe prosecutorial discretion is within the lawful authority of those charged with administering and enforcing the immigration laws…I also believe it is within the legal authority of supervisors to set, administratively, guidelines for subordinates in exercising prosecutorial discretion, and to expect compliance. I also recognize that prosecutorial discretion does not amount to effective abandonment of the enforcement of the law.”
Senate Republicans like Jeff Sessions (Ala.) and Charles Grassley (Iowa) have accused the Administration of abandoning enforcement under its Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and other prosecutorial discretion policies. It also was the subject of a lawsuit by ten ICE Agents, although a District Court dismissed the matter on a technicality.
In the letter, Johnson said he favored a biometric entry-exit system despite the fact that the Administration has heretofore favored a biographic approach. Johnson also said he supported the phased-in mandatory use of the E-Verify system and “effective” worksite enforcement.
“If comprehensive immigration reform is enacted, and if I am confirmed, a priority for me will be the effective implementation of that reform,” Johnson wrote. Since S. 744 gives the DHS Secretary inordinate discretion to determine which provision are effective and which are not, Johnson would be able to ignore a number of the bill’s enforcement measures if it passed.
For example, in the letter Johnson welcomed the doubling of Border Patrol Agents since 2004 but did not comment on the further doubling of Agents contained in S. 744. The bill gives the DHS Secretary discretion to forego hiring those Agents if a more effective border security plan is chosen.
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