Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Sunday he thinks the U.S. can turn back the influx of illegal immigrants, particularly unaccompanied children, who are causing a crisis at the southern border.
“I believe we will stem this tide,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
But he acknowledged the number of illegal immigrants is rising and it will be difficult to turn the situation around, particularly as violence and poverty roils central America.
“Honduras is in a really bad place right now,” Mr. Johnson said.
Mr. Johnson said immigration smugglers are acting like used-car salesmen, urging central Americans to cough up their money now before some kind of amnesty window runs out in the U.S.
He said deferred deportations are for children who came here seven years ago, not newcomers.
He chided American protesters who recently shouted at buses of illegal-immigrant women and children, but at the same time vowed to fix the border’s problems.
“Our border is not open to illegal migration and we will stem the tide,” he told NBC.
Rep. Raul R. Labrador said the Obama administration simply needs to crack down on illegal immigration, even if it seems cruel.
“The reality is the violence has existed in these central American countries for a long period of time,” the Idaho Republican told “Meet the Press.”
He said the flow of immigrants to the border will only increase, despite what Mr. Johnson said about stemming the tide, because criminal cartels are advertising their services based on deferred deportations for existing child migrants in the U.S.
“I know it sounds harsh. I know it sounds difficult,” he said.
But failing to deport families back to Central America will create a crisis, he said, that will actually “harm these children.”