Homeland Security Chief Admits Need for Tighter Border Security

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Wednesday, 11 Jun 2014 12:56 PM

By Melanie Batley

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Jeh Johnson, the new Homeland Security secretary, is admitting both publicly and privately that border security is a "problem," and that Congress will need to devote more resources to tackle the issue.

The position is a notable departure from the approach of his predecessor, Janet Napolitano, who repeatedly insisted that America's borders were secure, The Washington Times reported.

"There was a clear difference. When we met with him, he acknowledged right off the bat that he was well aware there was a problem on the southern border. There was not even a debate about that," Rosemary Jenks, government relations manager for NumbersUSA, told the Times.

Johnson is scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday and will probably face tough questions from lawmakers skeptical about the administration's enforcement policies.

During his six-month tenure, Johnson has won kudos for his hands-on approach and for soliciting the opinions of a wide range of people. He has also made several trips to a number of the country's borders to inspect the situation personally, the Times reported.

"I think he came in with eyes wide open. One of the really refreshing things has been he didn't pretend to know more than anybody else. In fact, he came in very humbly, saying in some of the meetings he was in that many of us had far more expertise than he did in these immigration and border-related issues," Marshall Fitz, director of immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, told the Times.

Johnson has, however, has been criticized from both sides about his handling of children trying to jump the borders. Immigrant activists say agents have been too slow to process custody transfers of children who have crossed the border, while others say he should have taken more action on cracking down on minor illegal immigrants.

"Secretary Johnson did state clearly he knows he has a problem on the border. But so far I have not seen him make any serious attempt to address the border issues," Julie Kirchner, executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, told the Times.

Johnson is currently conducting a review, mandated by President Barack Obama to investigate better ways to handle the administration's deportation policies. The review is expected to conclude in July.

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