WASHINGTON — Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson today suggested that the GOP is responsible for the growing border crisis because it has not approved the Senate’s June 2013 immigration rewrite that is backed by President Barack Obama.
He suggested that migrants are now crossing the border while wrongly hoping they will be included in the amnesty that is part of the Senate’s bill.
“There is a lot of anticipation [among potential migrants] about what comprehensive immigration reform would do, but it needs to be clear [to new border-crossers] that if the Congress acts on the pending legislation, the earned path to citizenship is for those who have been in the country now for a year and half, not those who are crossing today,” he said.
The “earned path to citizenship” is the White House’s preferred term for amnesty.
“If Congress acts, I believe we would know our immigration law landscape for years, if not decades,” he said at an afternoon press conference.
If the GOP approves the massive rewrite, border officials will also have extra resources “as well as stability in the law,” he said.
Johnson also used the conference to to deliver two additional conflicting messages to two other critical audiences.
He sought to reassure Americans who are worried about the growing wave of migrants. “I’m not encouraging in any way, shape or form illegal migration, that’s not the message,” he said, revealing his public relations priority.
He also signaled mixed support to a huge number of Latinos in Central America and in the United States who may want to send their children north in the hope they will be given permission to live in the United States.
He said the new migrants would not be eligible for the Senate’s amnesty, nor for the president’s 2012 “Deferred Action for Childhood Migrants” mini-amnesty. But he also said repeatedly that they would be treated very well, and would be allowed to make their case for residency in the administration’s immigration courts.
GOP leaders have blocked the Senate’s bill, which is Obamas top legislative priority. The bill would double the annual flow of two million guest workers and immigrants into the United States. It would also provide more money for border security and includes sections that could help establish a national “E-Verify” system for businesses to check the work-eligibility of prospective employees.
Since April a growing river of youths and families from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador has turned into a flood of migrants who are crossing the border in the hope of winning the administration’s permission to stay.
Agency officials expect the flood of children and youths to reach 90,000 by October, and 140,000 in the following 12 months. The agencies have not released data about the number of additional adults who are bringing other children to the United States.
GOP critics say Obama’s decision to weaken immigration enforcement has caused the new wave of migrants. In 2013, Obama only allowed officials to deport 0.2 percent of the 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States who had also not broken other laws. This month, he announced plans to renew a 2012 youth-amnesty program that has already awarded work permits to more than 560,000 illegal immigrants.
Since April, the flow of families and youths has grown rapidly, and media outlets are now saying that 1,000 people are crossing the border each day. If that rate continues, the combined inflow by October would exceed 150,000.
Almost one in five of the 28 million people living in the three Central American countries would like to migrate to the United States, according to a 2013 Gallup survey. That adds up to a potential inflow of five million people, assuming the flow is not augmented by roughly 130 million additional people in other countries that Gallup estimates wish to live in the United States.
The inflow may have damage Obama’s already poor poll numbers. For example, it will grow the nation’s labor supply, even though millions of older Americans have given up looking for work, and millions of younger Americans can’t get a decent job to start a family or buy a house.
Roughly one in eight American men — or 10 million men — between 25 and 54 do not have full-time jobs, even as the country has imported 10 million guest workers and 13 million immigrants from 2000 to 2013.