The Senate recently confirmed Jeh Johnson as the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary. President Obama nominated Johnson after former Secretary Janet Napolitano's resignation in September. After the Senate's confirmation, President Obama issued a statement applauding the Senate's decision and stated that Johnson is a “critical member of my national security team.”
Prior to becoming Secretary, Johnson was a successful lawyer and long-time supporter of President Obama. He has worked in public service at various times throughout his career, most recently serving as the Defense Department's general counsel until 2012.
While it is no secret that Johnson's background in this area is less than extensive, many senators have come out and publicly stated that he is nonetheless a good man for the job. In fact, Senator Thomas R. Carper of Delaware praised Johnson and said that he has been “impressed by his forthrightness, his thoughtfulness, his core values and impeccable moral character.”
However, not all lawmakers are as pleased with this new appointment. Specifically, Jeff Sessions, a Republican senator from Alabama has scrutinized Johnson's experience in border security and stated that he is simply not the right person to fill this position.
In addition, Senator John McCain voiced his concern about Johnson by noting that Johnson had failed to answer all of the questions that had been asked of him regarding immigration policy during the confirmation process.
Since his recent induction, Johnson has already made headlines. He recently wrote a letter to Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois stating that he does not believe deportation quotas are in the country's best interest. The letter went on to say that Johnson believes that immigration enforcement must be centered around those who pose a threat to national security or public safety.
In the letter, Johnson promised to work closely with Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) officials to ensure prosecutorial discretion is used effectively. Generally, prosecutorial discretion should be focused on high-priority cases such as those involving serious criminals or national security risks.
Meanwhile, ICE denies having specific deportation quotas, but did admit that there are “annual performance goals” in place. Going forward, Johnson will have a significant impact on future policies and potential reforms that may very well take place in the area of administrative removal policies.
When asked about the matter of undocumented immigrants joining the military, Johnson declined to make his feelings completely clear. However, he stated that the more potential applicants to choose from, the better.
Johnson will most likely be a strong advocate for immigration reform. He has stated that he thinks that reform will be obtained through comprehensive legislation that will include provisions to strengthen border security and penalties for employers who hire undocumented immigrants.
He has also seemed to take a strong stance on issues related to EB-5, the category of employment-based visas which allows for immigrant investors to gain residence in the United States. He notes that while this visa category is beneficial, it must be monitored more closely.
With this new appointment, immigrants throughout the country are hopeful that 2014 will help to bring about the much needed reform that we have all been anticipating.