WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security is already preparing to implement immigration reform legislation, according to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson.
“When reform legislation is enacted, DHS must be prepared to implement reform. So to prepare for this potential outcome, I have already directed the deputy director of homeland security to coordinate the process to ensure we are ready to implement the law,” Johnson said Friday at the Woodrow Wilson International Center, during his first major policy address since becoming DHS’s fourth secretary.
He praised the House Republicans recent statement of principles on immigration, calling them a “serious step forward” that “contains a lot to work with.”
“With both parties’ recognition that our immigration system is broken and needs to be fixed, this should not be an issue used in one way or another for political advantage,” Johnson said. “Rather we must look to find commonsense solutions to a problem we all know we have.”
Johnson further advocated for a pathway to citizenship.
“There are an estimated 11.5 million undocumented immigrants living in this country they are not going away, they are not going to self deport. Most have been here for years. Many have come here as children. As a matter of homeland security we should encourage these people to come out of the shadows,” he said.
Thursday, the prospect of comprehensive immigration reform took a hit when House Speaker John Boehner cast doubt on the ability to move such legislation forward, given the Obama administration’s propensity for unilaterally changing laws.
“Listen, there’s widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws,” Boehner said. “It’s going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes.”
When asked by Wilson Center president Jane Harman, a former California Democratic congresswoman, if the people can trust him to implement the law, Johnson again reiterated that the department is already preparing for implementation.
“We’re beginning to think about what we need to do to get ready for this. So this is an advanced planning team effort to anticipate what the department needs to do when and if this legislation passes,” Johnson said, adding that he believes comprehensive immigration reform will pass. He did not, however, say when.