Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson cautioned Democrats on pivoting too far to the left on immigration issues, warning that it could cost them in the 2020 election.
“Look, most Americans want to be fair and treat in a humane way those who have migrated here who are desperate, who are fleeing really bad conditions… We want to take care of the Dreamers, but Americans also want secure borders. They want to get control of illegal migration,” Johnson, who served as DHS secretary during the Obama administration, said Wednesday on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
“So when we talk about deprioritizing the deportation of those apprehended at the border or decriminalizing illegal immigration, I know that we’re going way too far to the left of the American consensus on where we should be on this, and you just cannot have a policy where a Border Patrol agent arrests someone at the border and says, in effect, you get to stay here unless you commit a crime,” Johnson continued.
Johnson identified himself as a “loyal Democrat” who wants to see his party win in the next election, but he suggested that the positions taken by many Democratic presidential contenders do not appeal to a wide consensus of Americans.
The comments were a sharp rebuke to the leftward swing seen by Democratic presidential candidates.
Many of the candidates vying to oust President Donald Trump have espoused support for decriminalizing illegal entry into the U.S. Nearly all of the presidential candidates participating at the second debate in July, for example, raised their hand when asked if they supported such a policy change. Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, in particular, not only wants to see illegal entry decriminalized, but he also wants to decriminalize illegal re-entry, a crime that is punishable by at least two years in prison.
Johnson had already criticized the idea publicly, saying it was tantamount to having “open borders.”
“That just simply incentivizes more illegal immigration. We lose control of our borders. In the same vein, by taking a formal step of decriminalizing illegal migration, what we’re saying as a country or society is we’re prepared to see a lot more of this,” Johnson said Wednesday. “When you decriminalize something it’s because society is prepared to see that behavior perhaps regulated, but en masse.”
“I don’t think that’s where the American people are.”
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