POLITICS: PennAve

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson dodges deportation question

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Immigration,Homeland Security,PennAve,Joseph Lawler,Economy,Border Security,Jeh Johnson

Department of Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson expressed optimism Sunday that the influx of illegal immigration from Central America could be slowed, but repeatedly dodged questions about how the Obama administration would resolve the status of the immigrants who have already arrived.

"I believe we're going to stem this tide," Johnson stated in an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press." "We're doing a number of things to do that right now," he said, citing the reduced time to deportation for adults and families apprehended crossing the border illegally.

Johnson also warned that "there are no free passes once you get here" for those entering the U.S. without authorization. "Our message to those who come here illegally: Our border is not open to illegal migration," he added.

But Johnson was less forthright about the administration's stance toward the more than 50,000 unaccompanied minors who have crossed the border this year, many of whom remain in the custody of the Border Patrol or the Department of Health and Human Services. Those children are a "special situation," said Johnson.

Asked repeatedly by NBC's David Gregory if the Obama administration's aim was to deport those children or find some way for them to remain in the country, Johnson declined to answer directly.

"There is a deportation proceeding that is commenced against illegal migrants, including children," Johnson responded at one point, adding that the administration was looking additional responses to the situation, although he did not clarify what those might be.

Johnson, still in his first year as secretary of Homeland Security, also addressed the controversy that took place in Murrieta, Calif., last week, when protesters blocked buses carrying immigrants from Texas to a DHS facility in the town there.

"I look at it and it is unfortunate to see that type of hostility directed at women and children on a bus, frankly,” said Johnson, adding that he does "not think it reflects Murrieta."

He noted that the "broader response" across the Southwest has been different from the protests in Murrieta, with citizens and churches in places like McAllen, in Texas' Rio Grande Valley, supporting the Border Patrol "to do the humanitarian thing."

Nevertheless, Johnson declined to say whether President Obama will visit the border areas in Texas when he visits the state in the upcoming week.
"The president can't be every place he'd like to be or should be," Johnson said.

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