Washington Post: “Homeland security secretary tells politicians to cut back on the rhetoric”

by Joseph McKeown

At a conference hosted by Latino lawmakers, US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson called for presidential candidates and politicians to tone down the inflammatory rhetoric regarding immigrants and immigration. As reported in the Washington Post, he said: 

All of us in public office, those who aspire to public office and who command a microphone owe the public calm, responsible dialogue and decision-making…Not overheated, over simplistic rhetoric and proposals of superficial appeal. In a democracy, the former leads to smart and sustainable policy. The latter can lead to fear, hate, suspicion, prejudice and government overreach. These words are especially true in matters of homeland security and they are especially true in matters of immigration policy.

Secretary Johnson said despite the perception that the number of undocumented immigrants was increasing, undocumented entries by immigrants into the US have declined overall—despite the recent surge in Central American migrants—to levels not seen since the early 1970s.  

In his speech, Secretary Johnson also decried the suggestion of building a wall on the US/Mexico border, and said that deporting eleven million undocumented immigrants—as Trump and other GOP candidates have proposed—is not feasible. “We’re not going to deport a population equal in size to New York City and Chicago,” he said in the Washington Post. "They live among us, we know them, they’re becoming integrated members of society.”

That said, Johnson recommends that the federal government should invest more in “technology for border security” as well as the ability to have in-country processing agencies in Central America to allow immigrants to more easily and safely bring children or spouses into the country. In addition, he continues to support the Obama administration’s calls for Congress to include a $1 billion aid package for Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras in the next spending bill to address the underlying causes of migration from Central America.

Johnson’s plea for a more civil political discourse comes amid the release of a report that shows immigrants are assimilating and integrating to the US effectively, arguably at a faster rate than previous immigrant generations. The extensive 400-page report, from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, examines various factors from English proficiency, education levels, and family structure to health, crime, and employment. The report states:

Across all measurable outcomes, integration increases over time, with immigrants becoming more like the native-born with more time in the country, and with the second and third generations becoming more like other native-born Americans than their parents were. 

The reports also has some other interesting conclusions: integration into American society is happening at a faster pace than with previous generations since many immigrants typically now come to the US with some level of English proficiency; the "increased prevalence of immigrants is associated with lower crime rates—the opposite of what many Americans fear;” lastly, the “least educated immigrants” are “more likely to be employed than comparably educated native-born men, indicating that they are filling an important niche in our economy.”