Top DHS officials from President Barack Obama’s administration have taken a strong stand against the border decriminalization positions held by 2020 Democratic presidential candidates.

The Hill reports:

In an op-ed in The Washington Post this week, former Obama Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said that decriminalization would attract hundreds of thousands of new migrants to the southern border. He described the proposal as “tantamount to declaring publicly that we have open borders.”

Several of former President Obama’s top homeland security officials interviewed by The Hill went on the record to express shock and dismay after eight of the 10 Democratic presidential contenders on stage at the second night of the debate raised their hands when asked if they support the decriminalization of border crossings.

“We can’t go too far to the left for what people could describe as open borders,” said Marsha Catron, a former deputy assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security during the Obama administration.

“I think all of those people onstage who raised their hands will have to walk it back if they make it to the general election or the White House. I understand the emotion involved, we want for people to be treated humanely and with respect, and that’s not happening with the Trump administration. But Jeh Johnson, [former Homeland Security Secretary] Janet Napolitano, these people who have worked in these situations understand, you just can’t have it this way. It’s unworkable.”


Juliette Kayyem, who was on the Homeland Security Advisory Council during the Obama years, said she was “shocked” by how many Democrats announced their support for decriminalization at the debate. She said that even if section 1325 is repealed, the Trump administration would find some other justification for separating families.

In response to Johnson’s op-ed, candidate Julián Castro suggested Obama’s former DHS Secretary parroted right-wing talking points:

“I would say that Secretary Johnson is wrong, Vice President Biden is wrong on this and Congressman O’Rourke is wrong on this,” Castro said.

Castro noted that “until about 2004, we treated crossing the border as a civil violation, not a criminal violation,” and said by conflating that with the notion of open borders, Johnson was repeating a prominent political argument on the right.

“Secretary Johnson has suggested somehow that people will take that as open borders. Open borders are a right-wing talking point,” he said, pointing to current enforcement mechanisms on the U.S. southern border, like existing fencing and the presence of Border Patrol agents.

Johnson, in particular, has been the primary Obama-era Democratic official on the frontlines of pushing back on some of the more alarmist rhetoric coming from the likes of Castro, Sen. Cory Booker (NJ), and others. On Friday, he told MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough that the ICE raids currently underway were “not extraordinary”:

“Deportations occur all the time. Of those who have been ordered deported by an immigration judge, hopefully after they have exhausted their appeal rights and had an opportunity to have their asylum case heard, we simply have to enforce the law, particularly if someone has been ordered deported,” Johnson said on Morning Joe Friday.

“In other words, they’ve exhausted all their appeal rights. And so, it’s important for migrants to know they have rights. But enforcement actions themselves are not extraordinary,” he added.

On the issue of deportations, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) talked about final orders of removal on Chris Wallace’s show on Fox News a few weeks ago and described Democratic party’s position is “in essence, open borders”:

“President Trump has also delayed a roundup that was supposed to begin today of migrant families that have already been given their deportation orders. He said he’s giving Congress two weeks to work out and reform the asylum system, and otherwise, he’ll impose the roundup. I don’t have to tell you. You have a little bit of a look on your face. The likelihood – you talk about healthy skepticism — Congress isn’t going to reform the asylum system in two weeks sir,” host Chris Wallace said.

“So Chris, I was going to say healthy skepticism is warranted for dealing with Democrats when it comes to immigration,” Cotton responded. “Let’s just think about the Democrats position here, Chris. These are people who have claimed asylum in our country. They’ve had their day in court.

“They’ve had their claims rejected, and now they face a valid and final order of removal. If they can’t deport people like that, who can we deport? That’s why the Democrats’ position always comes back to, in essence, open borders,” he said.

Watch video of the exchange below:

In an interview earlier this month, Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) also explained the open borders position of Democrats:

“What they really want is no enforcement, this is the crux of it. They don’t talk about what the actual problem is which is tens of thousands of people coming across and overwhelming our system,” Crenshaw added. “And then they have to answer the question, should we have a system at all? And they say no. Well what is the point of even having a border? Why even have custom agents at airports if we are not going to enforce any kind of management over who comes in and out of our country? They don’t want to answer these tough questions because in the end they want open borders.”

In other words, Democrats don’t have to actually say the words “open borders” to let people know that they’re for open borders. When you support border decriminalization, want to get rid of the detention centers, eliminate the CBP and ICE, and don’t want a wall, what do you want? You want a wide-open border with no enforcement.

It’s just that simple.

— Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym “Sister Toldjah” and can be reached via Twitter. —


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