Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, reviewing the Obama administration's deportation policy, has issues with “sanctuary” local governments that are not cooperating with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said conservatives who met with him on Wednesday.
FILE - This March 18, 2014 file photo shows Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson speaking in Washington. Reviewing the U.S. deportation policy, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is said to be weighing limiting deportations of immigrants living here illegally but without serious criminal records. The change could shield tens of thousands of immigrants now deported because of repeated violations such as disobeying a deportation order or missing a court date. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci, File)
“Secretary Johnson seemed genuinely vexed by the state and local efforts to ignore federal law on ICE detainees,” Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), told TheBlaze. “He didn't seem pleased by it.”
Johnson met with representatives from the CIS, the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform (FAIR), Numbers USA, and the conservative advocacy group Eagle Forum, all which oppose granting legal status to some 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States.
Johnson was joined in the meeting with the conservative groups by DHS General Counsel Stevan Bunnell.
Johnson also met separately with the liberal groups Progressives for Immigration Reform and United We Dream, both which advocate a so called “pathway to citizenship” for those already in the United States. He further spoke with the National Sheriffs Association on a conference call.
“There was discussion that if the president's primary enforcement priority is to remove criminal aliens, Homeland Security can't reach that goal if there is not cooperation at the state and local level,” said FAIR Executive Direct Julie Kirchner told TheBlaze.
Another key topic was “proactive enforcement across the board,” and not just waiting until an offender is in jail for another reason, said Kirchner, who described the meeting as “cordial and professional.”
“I think the jury is still out on how fruitful this might be,” Kirchner said of the meeting. “If it spurs ongoing dialogue it would be very fruitful. If it's a way for them to say we met with these folks, perhaps not.”
The Homeland Security Department issued a statement about the secretary's meetings, but it did not detail specific topics of discussion.
“As part of the on-going review process, Secretary Johnson continues to engage with various stakeholders from all sides of the immigration debate, which represent a diverse set of views and opinions in order to assess areas where we can further align our enforcement policies with our goal of sound law enforcement practice that prioritizes public safety,” the statement said. “In addition, Secretary Johnson continues to seek the advice and input of his team within DHS, to include component leadership and frontline employees who are charged with implementing DHS policies and enforcement priorities.”
The statement added that like President Barack Obama, Johnson is committed to “enforcing and administering our immigration laws effectively and sensibly, in line with our Nation’s values.”
Johnson seemed to reject the notion that the administration will stop enforcing the law against people who were deported and returned or people who were deported and remained in the country, as was recommended by former ICE Direct John Sandweg in a Los Angeles Times oped that the new deportation policy.
That was some comfort to Krikorian.
“The reaction from Johnson was almost contemptuous. My sense is that he's not going to do that,” Krikorian said referring to Johnson's reaction to Sandweg's suggestion. “He said, 'he doesn't know what he's talking about,' and 'he doesn't work here anymore.'”
Krikorian was impressed that the secretary met with the groups and doubted that former Secretary Janet Napolitano would have had such a meeting. Though he did not believe any minds were changed.
“He said, 'If you're here to tell me I have problems, I know I have problem,'” Krikorian recalled. “He said it was an issue of priorities. Prosecutorial discretion is understandable.”
But Krikorian said a certain degree of randomness is needed in all law enforcement, be it speed traps by police or random audits by the Internal Revenue Service to ensure compliance with the law.
He said only enforcing immigration law against criminal aliens “would be the equivalency of the IRS only going after drug money or Russian mobsters and saying regular tax cheats are not a priority.”