Protect young immigrants from deportation

  • Updated: December 28, 2013 - 4:08 PM

New leadership at Homeland Security should lead to a better U.S. deportation strategy.


Stop deporting potential citizens


The Senate has confirmed Jeh Johnson, once the Pentagon’s top lawyer, to lead the Department of Homeland Security. Johnson brings a sharp legal mind and reputation for probity to the job. He will need both qualities to manage the department, a daunting agglomeration of agencies and missions and chronic management.

Every year the Government Accountability Office publishes a “high-risk list” of federal agencies and departments that it considers “most in need of transformation.” Homeland Security has appeared on that list, year after year, for failing to become “a single, cohesive and effective department that is greater than the sum of its parts.” It has many parts: 22 agencies were folded into it in 2003; today it has more than 240,000 employees handling terrorism prevention, disaster response, immigration (legal and illegal) and many other things. Staffing vacancies are high. Morale is low.

What most needs fixing is immigration enforcement. Under Johnson’s predecessors, the department’s continually shifting strategies against illegal immigration had two things in common: They were ineffective and cruel. The Obama administration promised greater prosecutorial discretion to focus more on removing violent and dangerous criminals, but nevertheless it ramped up deportations to record levels. Although comprehensive reform lags in Congress, Obama has taken some steps, including a laudable program to defer the deportations of some young immigrants. Though he has been accused of intruding into Congress’s authority, the program is a legitimate stopgap to protect a group of potential citizens who have been stranded by congressional inaction. Obama and Johnson should find ways to expand it.


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