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Message to New DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson: "What Most Needs Fixing is Immigration Enforcement"

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Today, The New York Times published an editorial titled, “Homeland Security’s New Chief,” which lays out the challenges and expectations for Jeh Johnson on immigration. Fix the “ineffective and cruel” enforcement strategy – and expand DACA (emphasis below is ours):

What most needs fixing is immigration enforcement. Under Mr. Johnson’s predecessors, the department’s continually shifting strategies against illegal immigration had two things in common. They were ineffective and cruel. The administration of George W. Bush specialized in high-profile deportations. In one notorious instance, the government professed itself shocked to find Hispanics without papers working in a meat plant in Iowa, so it swooped in and removed them, devastating scores of families and the town they lived in.

The Obama administration promised greater prosecutorial discretion to focus more on removing violent and dangerous criminals, but, nevertheless, it ramped up deportations to record levels. Deportations roared along at about 400,000 a year, a record number that smelled like a quota. Though the rate has subsided in the last year, thousands of noncriminals and minor offenders are still being swept into the dragnet, while complaints persist of overzealous, unconstitutional enforcement.

Although comprehensive reform lags in Congress, Mr. Obama has taken some steps to take the pressure off unauthorized immigrants who pose no threat, including a laudable program to defer the deportations of some young immigrants. Though he has been accused of intruding into Congress’s authority, the program is a legitimate stopgap to protect a group of potential citizens who have been stranded by Congressional inaction. Mr. Obama and Mr. Johnson should find ways to expand it.

In a Dec. 12 letter to Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, Mr. Johnson said deferred deportation had been a success and promised to keep it that way. He added, “I do not believe that deportation quotas or numeric goals are a good idea,” and he promised to investigate reports of abusive conditions at detention centers. These are good signs.

Mr. Johnson has little experience with immigration. But the homeland security deputy secretary confirmed on Friday, Alejandro Mayorkas, does. Mr. Mayorkas is the director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency within homeland security that handles legal immigration. Under Mr. Mayorkas’s capable leadership, it has done a good job in managing the deferred-action program. Mr. Mayorkas, an immigrant himself, looks to be an excellent partner for Mr. Johnson in beginning the formidable job of bringing the department’s immigration policies and practices into line with its mission.