Thursday, May 29, 2014
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told lawmakers Thursday that a controversial immigration enforcement program should continue, but be revamped in order to run more effectively.
After signaling recently that the program, called Secure Communities, should get a “fresh look,” Johnson said Thursday that the administration is not seeking to dump the initiative altogether. The program calls on law enforcement to hand over fingerprints of people booked into local jails to federal immigration authorities.
“I don’t believe we should scrap Secure Communities,” Johnson told the House Judiciary Committee. “I believe, given the reality of where we are with this program in this country, that we need a fresh start.”
Johnson said the mission of Secure Communities is a “very worthy one that needs to continue.” But the program, which began under President George W. Bush and was expanded under President Barack Obama, has “gotten off to bad messaging, misunderstanding in state and local communities about exactly what it is.”
Immigration advocates have long slammed Secure Communities, arguing that it can invite racial profiling and make immigrants fearful of local law enforcement authorities. But Republicans and enforcement hawks have praised the program as an effective tool to identify undocumented immigrants.
But any significant administrative changes to immigration enforcement programs are likely to stoke outrage from congressional Republicans, who believe the Obama administration will pick and choose which immigration laws to enforce. That was a major focus of the hearing on Thursday, the first time that Johnson has testified before the Judiciary Committee. Read more...