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DHS nominee Jeh Johnson lacks immigration experience
Question of the Day
Republicans are already attacking the man President Obama will nominate to head the Homeland Security Department for his lack of experience on immigration, questioning how he can be qualified if he is not familiar with a major part of the department secretary’s portfolio.
Mr. Obama is poised on Friday to name Jeh Johnson, a Democratic fundraiser and the former top lawyer at the Defense Department, to run the Homeland Security Department, and will point to his management experience as a key reason why Mr. Johnson is being chosen.
Indeed, the department is still getting on its feet 10 years after it was created and includes tens of thousands of employees spanning more than a dozen component agencies, from the Coast Guard and Secret Service to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The department also oversees the three immigration services: Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, both of which handle enforcement, and Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is responsible for immigration benefits.
Sen. John Cornyn, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, said Friday Mr. Johnson is lacking in those areas.
“After this administration’s mismanagement of DHS, in particular its failure to secure the border, Texans expect a nominee with serious management and law enforcement experience,” he said. “Rather than selecting someone who knows the unique dynamics of our Southern border, President Obama has tapped one of his former New York fundraisers. We need someone who knows how to secure the border, not dial for dollars.”
A White House aide told reporters Thursday Mr. Johnson was being picked “because he is one the most highly qualified and respected national security leaders” and because he was part of the largest government agency in the world when he was at the Defense Department.
Those on either side of the immigration debate had little to say about Mr. Johnson — chiefly because they were still trying to learn what he knew.
“There doesn’t seem to be any indication that he has any experience at all in immigration,” said Rosemary Jenks, chief lobbyist for NumbersUSA, which advocates for stricter immigration limits.
There was one tantalizing tidbit about Mr. Johnson and immigration that appeared in a short Crain’s New York Business profile in the 1990s. That article noted that during his time as a young Justice Department lawyer he prosecuted “corrupt politicians, cops and immigration agents.”
The former secretary, Janet Napolitano, had previously been a prosecutor, attorney general and governor of Arizona, dealing with the influx of illegal immigrants in the 1990s and 2000s, before Mr. Obama tapped her to lead the department.
She took fire from both sides of the immigration debate. Those who wanted a crackdown said she ignored the laws and granted de facto amnesty to illegal immigrants, while immigrant-rights activists said she was still deporting too many rank-and-file illegal immigrants who didn’t have criminal records.
The next secretary will have a tough time managing the immigration services since ICE lacks a confirmed director and CBP lacks a confirmed commissioner. And the director of CIS, Alejandro Mayorkas, has been tapped to be the department deputy secretary, which would leave CIS without a confirmed chief — though Mr. Mayorkas’s promotion has gotten entangled with a scandal in the Virginia governor’s race.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican who fought the Senate’s immigration bill, questioned whether Mr. Johnson is the right man to reform the immigration services.
“It would appear that the president plans to nominate a loyalist and fundraiser to this post. This is deeply concerning,” he said. “This huge department must have a proven manager with strong relevant law enforcement experience, recognized independence and integrity, who can restore this department to its full capability.”
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About the Author
Stephen Dinan can be reached at email@example.com.
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