When people look back at the US immigration debate, they might point to May 2018 as a turning point. There were major events that made national news and smaller rumblings that could pave the way for seismic shifts. A caravan crossing the US-Mexico border sparked a push to overhaul asylum policies and stop future groups from getting in. The President of the United States called immigrant gang members "animals." Authorities separated immigrant children from their parents as part of a new "zero tolerance" plan to prosecute everyone caught illegally crossing the border. How did we get to this place and where do we go from here?
Fox News Radio's Guy Benson & Marie Harf sat down with Jeh Johnson, former Secretary of Homeland Security (2013-2017), and the former General Counsel of the Department of Defense (2009-2010) to discuss this and more.
On the hardest part of his former job as Secretary of Homeland Security: The thing I was worried most about was terrorism. Enforcement and administration of our immigration laws was the most difficult part of my job. (4:10)
On the right balance between enforcing immigration laws and having empathy for people: There is this thing called prosecutorial discretion. When I was in office we prioritized convicted criminals and felons. I told our folks 'I want you to have a public safety mission. MS-13, the really bad guys go after them.' (5:55)
On the photos of immigrant children in cages: The image that surfaced, and I read that story, could have been last week could have been three years ago on my watch because the reality is, while illegal migration is a fraction of what it used to be say 18 years ago, the demographic has totally changed. It's no longer the single adult from Mexico. That's the stereotype. It's families coming from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. They're looking for a better life. (9:00)
On how President Trump should handle the issue of immigrant children: I could not, as a matter of policy or practice, separate a child from its mother or father unless it was some exigent circumstance. Ultimately the way to deal with this is more immigration judges, but even more fundamental than that we have to address the push factors that motivate women and children to leave those countries in the first place. (11:10)
On if the border is secure: No, we have something like 50,000 people a month crossing our southern border. It is more secure now than it ever was, but you're never going to be able to deal with illegal migration if you don't deal with the push factors. (13:41)