Secretary of Department of Homeland Security Doesn’t Believe in Deportation Quotas

Washington, D.C. – In mid-December the Senate confirmed the new Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security. Jeh Johnson took over the position after the departure of Janet Napolitano who joined the private sector. As the former General Counsel for the Department of Defense, few knew which direction he would take immigration enforcement as the new head of the DHS and someone who has little experience with immigration.

Senator Dick Durbin (D- IL) was also curious about how Johnson would enforce the country’s immigration laws. The written exchange between Johnson and Sen. Durbin was enlightening and revealed that Johnson intends to take a sensible approach toward immigration and deportation policy.

In his letter to Sen. Durbin, Johnson said he would focus his enforcement efforts on “those who pose a threat to our national security, public safety and the integrity of our borders.” This came as a relief to Durbin and other lawmakers like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Luis Guitterez who is concerned about the high number of deportations taking place—the Obama Administration is poised to deport 2 million immigrants by the end of this year.

Johnson will continue to follow the guidelines of prosecutorial discretion and will focus on “quality” immigration enforcement as opposed to quantity. He wrote, according to Think Progress, that he will “continually evaluate the prosecutorial discretion guidelines…to ensure they are consistent with the Department’s enforcement priorities.” Since he took office President Obama has given deportation relief to certain immigrants such as DREAMERS and shifted his deportation focus on immigrants who are criminal offenders.

Even with prosecutorial discretion, 45 percent of the approximately 1,000 people deported every day are not criminal offenders. Some are people who have been stopped for very minor traffic offenses. There are many who believe that deportation quotas are the reason many otherwise law-abiding immigrants are being deported at high rates. Johnson said he did not believe in quotas stating, “I do not believe that deportation quotas or numeric goals are a good idea.”

ICE says they do not have specific quotas for deportations but, instead, use the funds they are given by Congress. They say Congress has given them funds to deport 400,000 people each year so that is what they use the funds for.

Sen. Durbin who is a proponent of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals pressed Johnson on what he would do to encourage eligible DREAMERS to join the military. Johnson also assured Sen. Durbin that he would work with the Department of Defense to “ensure that the broadest possible class of DACA recipients is able to enlist.”

Johnson also vowed to visit detention centers and assure that immigrants awaiting deportation are able to get access to phones so that they may contact their lawyers and work to protect them from physical abuse and sexual harassment.

Johnson’s letter shows that he is willing to follow the immigration directives of the Obama administration and focus deportation on criminal offenders.