CODEPINK Activists Confront DHS Secretary: 'I'm an Illegal Alien'

The man tasked with enforcing the nation's immigration laws found himself face-to-face with a self-proclaimed “illegal alien” Monday in a meeting with far-leftwing activists from the protest group CODEPINK.

“I’m an ‘illegal alien,’ that’s how you refer to us in all your documents, right?” Catalina Nieto, one of the activists, told Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, according to a blog post by two CODEPINK staffers about the meeting.

Nieto went on to tell Johnson – who has been tasked by President Obama with developing more “humane” ways of enforcing immigration laws – that “there is nothing humane about enforcement.”

Responding to the blog post and questions about what Johnson would do with the knowledge that Nieto is in the U.S. illegally, DHS spokesman Peter Boogaar said "the Secretary has and will continue to meet with a broad range of stakeholder organizations."

The meeting came about after CODEPINK protested at Johnson's “elegant” Georgetown home, at which he invited them to a meeting at DHS headquarters.

CODEPINK’s Medea Benjamin and Alli McCracken wrote in a blog post:

We had been told beforehand that we could bring a total of 5 people, so in addition to Alli McCracken, Medea Benjamin, and Tighe Barry of the CODEPINK staff, we had invited two colleagues from the immigrant rights community since DHS is responsible for the unprecedented number of deportations (an astounding 1,100 people a day) occurring every day under President Obama, dubbed the "Deporter-in-Chief." Our colleagues were Catalina Nieto of Detention Watch Network and Roxana Bendezú of School of the Americas Watch.

When immigration came up during the meeting, Catalina Nieto of Detention Watch Network identified herself to the DHS secretary as an “illegal alien,” stating:

I’m an "illegal alien," that’s how you refer to us in all your documents, right? ... Well you are meeting one in person right now. Have you met with people going through detention and deportation? Have you met with the families of those who are being deported? You talk about conducting a review to make immigration enforcement more ‘humane,’ but let me tell you that there is nothing humane about enforcement, even from the way you refer to us, as aliens, not even humans. There is nothing humane about drones at the border, a border patrol that is out of control, or operation streamline. There is nothing humane about putting someone in deportation proceedings, then locking them up in a cage, away from their families and any support system, making it almost impossible to get legal counsel, without any due process rights, in horrible conditions, and then deporting them. There is nothing humane about that.

The meeting happened four days after President Obama assigned Johnson to review how he can use executive authority to provide even more leniency than he already has to illegal aliens in the immigration law enforcement process, an announcement the White House made last Thursday. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), an anti-amnesty hawk, said in response that the administration’s claims that illegal aliens are facing some kind of deportation crisis are inflated and contrived.

“According to ICE’s own published statistics, the vast majority of those removed from the country have been convicted of a crime or involved with a serious crime,” Sessions said in response to the President’s latest announcement.

CODEPINK’s meeting with Johnson did not focus solely on immigration matters. Benjamin and McCracken wrote that they also pressured him on the administration’s use of drones in war.

The meeting was a followup to a discussion about the matter they had with him last November outside his home, when CODEPINK had staged an anti-war movie night on the sidewalk in front of Johnson’s D.C. home in Georgetown.

“Jeh Johnson was chief counsel at the Department of Defense from 2009-2013 and wrote the legal memos that justified the targeted killing of people overseas by drones,” Benjamin and McCracken wrote, adding: 

He had just been nominated to head the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and we decided to do a creative protest at this house because we didn’t think that one of the architects of the US drone program — a program that kills so many innocents and makes us so hated around the world—should be put in charge of ‘homeland security.’

They wrote that this Monday meeting at DHS — which occurred even though the federal government was closed due to snow—was a followup to a discussion that Johnson had with them that night. “When the documentary ended, to our surprise, Johnson himself came out to talk to us,” Benjamin and McCracken wrote. “After an intense discussion about the ethics and efficacy of drone warfare, he invited us for a followup meeting once he was confirmed at the DHS.”


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