DHS Chief Defends Obama on Immigration

January 29, 2015 Updated: January 30, 2015

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson called on Republicans to pass a bill funding the agency past February without the amendments aimed at the president’s November immigration order. 

“The Homeland Security budget of this government should not be a political football,” Johnson said at the Wilson Center in Washington. “I urge Congress to pass a bill funding the DHS free and clear of politically charged amendments.” 

Funding for the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) runs out by the end of February, and the president has vowed he would veto any funding bill that would rollback any parts of his November immigration order, which would shield 5 million illegal immigrants from deportation and give them work permits. 

In his speech, Johnson laid out the agenda of the DHS in 2015, which focused on counter-terrorism and immigration reform. In response to the terrorist threats recently highlighted by the attacks in Paris and Canada, the DHS would assign more federal protective services to federal buildings in major cities, and add new requirements for participants in the visa-waiver program. 

Johnson also highlighted the agency’s implementation of the president’s November immigration order that would grant deferred action status to adults. 

“The reality is these immigrants are not enforcement priorities, therefore we want to encourage these people to come out of the shadows, be accountable, pay taxes, and get on the books so we know who they are,” Johnson said. 

The reality is these immigrants are not enforcement priorities, therefore we want to encourage these people to come out of the shadows.
— Jeh Johnson

He also stressed that the border was already secure, and that due to seasonal changes the number of illegal immigrants from Central America had declined significantly as a result. 

“Today’s border patrol has the largest deployment of people, vehicles, aircrafts, and boats along the southern border in its 90-year history,” Johnson said. 

At the same time, Johnson said he opposes short-term funding of the DHS through a continuing resolution because it would prevent the budget from exceeding last year’s. 

House Democrats have lined up against the DHS funding bill, and have asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to introduce a “clean” version of the bill. McConnell is also facing pressure from the right to put the bill to a vote. 

“We write to urge you to bring H.R. 240 to the floor as soon as the Senate completes consideration of Keystone XL,” a letter signed by 43 House Republicans sent to McConnell reads. “Senate Republicans must honor the promise they made to the American people last year to stand firm against the President’s lawless actions and preserve Congress’ constitutional role as a lawmaking body. “