Sec­re­tary’s cal­en­dar heavier with amnesty sup­port­ers

The Washington Times Weekly - - Pol­i­tics - BY STEPHEN DI­NAN

As he was craft­ing Pres­i­dent Obama’s ex­ec­u­tive ac­tions on im­mi­gra­tion, Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Jeh John­son met re­peat­edly with law­mak­ers, ad­vo­cacy groups and lawyers push­ing for him to go as broad as pos­si­ble in grant­ing a de­por­ta­tion amnesty to il­le­gal im­mi­grants.

Mr. John­son’s of­fi­cial cal­en­dars, ob­tained un­der an open records re­quest by the Fed­er­a­tion for Amer­i­can Im­mi­gra­tion Re­form and shown to The Wash­ing­ton Times, show that Rep. Luis V. Gutier­rez of Illi­nois and fel­low Democrats in Congress got about twice as many meet­ings as Repub­li­cans, and out­side lob­by­ing groups who sup­ported the amnesty were re­peat­edly wel­comed.

But groups on the other side of the de­bate strug­gled to get Mr. John­son’s ear. They said they had to re­sort to pres­sure from Congress to get an in­vite to the two meet­ings they ar­ranged. One group, the la­bor union rep­re­sent­ing Bor­der Pa­trol agents, says it still has not met with the sec­re­tary de­spite re­peated re­quests.

Mr. John­son’s cal­en­dars also show he de­voted more meet­ing time in Wash­ing­ton to preparing for Mr. Obama’s amnesty than he did to han­dling the spike of il­le­gal im­mi­grants from Cen­tral Amer­ica. The surge across the bor­der in 2014 ex­posed mas­sive holes in U.S. im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy.

Mr. John­son’s time has in­creas­ingly been ab­sorbed by fight­ing fed­eral courts that are play­ing more ac­tive roles in set­ting lim­its on how much lat­i­tude he has to en­force im­mi­gra­tion laws — from both ends of the spec­trum.

The cal­en­dars, ob­tained un­der the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act, span 2013 through 2015, which means they in­clude the fi­nal year of Janet Napoli­tano’s ten­ure as sec­re­tary as well as the first two years of Mr. John­son’s.

“Th­ese one-sided sched­ules re­flect the same one-sided ap­proach of an ad­min­is­tra­tion ut­terly con­temp­tu­ous of the gen­eral pub­lic’s con­cerns about im­mi­gra­tion and re­lated top­ics,” said Dan Stein, pres­i­dent of the Fed­er­a­tion for Amer­i­can Im­mi­gra­tion Re­form.

“They rarely, if ever, sought in­put from groups rep­re­sent­ing law-abid­ing cit­i­zens whose lives, jobs and com­mu­ni­ties are af­fected by mass il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion. In­stead, the poli­cies of this ad­min­is­tra­tion have been dic­tated by ad­vo­cates for the peo­ple who break our laws and busi­ness in­ter­ests that use im­mi­gra­tion to un­der­mine Amer­i­can work­ers,” he said.

Mr. John­son dis­puted Mr. Stein’s con­tention that he played fa­vorites in his con­sul­ta­tions dur­ing the run-up to the 2014 pol­icy.

Mr. John­son said he learned dur­ing his time as the Pen­tagon’s top at­tor­ney, craft­ing the end to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” pol­icy that barred gay troops from serv­ing openly, about the value of hear­ing from all sides.

“Any sug­ges­tion that our views about the ex­ec­u­tive ac­tions were formed be­cause we spent far more time with im­mi­gra­tion ad­vo­cates than those op­posed is sim­ply false,” the sec­re­tary told The Wash­ing­ton Times.

“In 2014, I sought to meet with groups who wanted to ex­press their views. To be sure, we heard from a lot more of the groups who were sup­port­ive of im­mi­gra­tion re­form than those who were against, and so lots of or­ga­ni­za­tions would write me let­ters stat­ing their views in very pre­cise terms with spe­cific pro­pos­als for re­form. I heard from far fewer groups and in­di­vid­u­als who were op­posed. Notwith­stand­ing that, I made an af­fir­ma­tive ef­fort to hear from pro-en­force­ment groups,” he said.

Mr. John­son wrote many of the ex­ec­u­tive ac­tions him­self and de­fended them as law­ful and the best way to di­rect the use of lim­ited re­sources.

“I was not go­ing to do this with­out as­sur­ing my­self that I had the views of my com­po­nent [agency] lead­er­ship — po­lit­i­cal and ca­reer per­son­nel,” he said.

The sheer size and scope of the de­part­ment’s port­fo­lio, and the gar­gan­tuan chal­lenges fac­ing the sec­re­tary, quickly be­come clear from the breadth of is­sues that ap­peared on the cal­en­dars.

On one day in March 2015, Mr. John­son’s cal­en­dar called for him to get to work at his usual time of 6:30 a.m., re­ceive his daily in­tel­li­gence brief­ing at 8:30 a.m., fol­lowed by a clas­si­fied meet­ing. He then had a meet­ing with his coun­tert­er­ror­ism ad­vi­sory board and other ses­sions on air­port se­cu­rity, Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. Sen­tenc­ing Com­mis­sion and Syr­ian refugees.

Also un­der the de­part­ment’s purview are the Coast Guard, the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency, re­spon­si­bil­ity for the na­tion’s cy­berde­fenses, mass-tran­sit se­cu­rity, cus­toms and trade poli­cies, and re­sponse to pan­demics such as Ebola.

Ms. Napoli­tano and Mr. John­son en­gaged with the press, in­clud­ing on-there­cord in­ter­views and in­for­mal meet­ings. He had two off-the-record ses­sions with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, a lunch with NBC’s An­drea Mitchell and meet­ings with re­ported from a num­ber of news­pa­pers, in­clud­ing The Wash­ing­ton Times.

The sec­re­taries’ most fre­quent guests from out­side the Home­land Se­cu­rity De­part­ment was Ce­cilia Munoz, a top ad­viser to Mr. Obama who used to be the top lob­by­ist at the Na­tional Coun­cil of La Raza, where she pushed for le­gal­iza­tion of il­le­gal im­mi­grants.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Jeh John­son de­nies he fa­vored one side over the other while con­sid­er­ing ex­ec­u­tive ac­tions on amnesty.

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