Days after the White House refused to give a definitive answer about whether most of the illegal immigrant children flooding across the U.S.-Mexico would be deported, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson also punted multiple times when asked on Sunday.
On Meet the Press, when host David Gregory asked Johnson if the illegal immigrants arriving from Central America will be sent back, Johnson responded with formulaic talking points.
“The law requires that, when DHS identifies somebody as a child, as an unaccompanied child, we turn them over to the Department of Health and Human Services,” he said. “But there is a deportation proceeding that is commenced against the child. Now, that proceeding can take some time. And so we’re looking at options, added flexibility, to deal with the children in particular, but in a humanitarian and fair way.”
When Gregory pressed him at least six more times about whether the illegal immigrant kids would be deported and noted that Johnson’s responses were awfully “careful,” Johnson deflected again, saying, “There is a deportation proceeding that is commenced against illegal migrants, including children. We are looking at ways to create additional options for dealing with the children in particular, consistent with our laws and our values.”
When Gregory asked if “most of them” will “end up staying,” Johnson punted again, saying, “I’m saying that we’ve already dramatically reduced the turnaround time for the adults. And we’re in the process of doing that for the adults with the kids.”
On Thursday, when White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was asked if he could “say without ambiguity that most of these kids are going to get deported,” he punted as well:
What I can say without ambiguity is that the law will be applied and there is going to be a due process that they’ll all be subjected to. So I wouldn’t stand here and say how those claims will be processed; it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to do so. But the law will be rigorously applied. And to ensure that it’s rigorously applied, we’ve asked for additional resources so that we can have more prosecutors and judges and asylum officials deployed to this region to more efficiently process these cases within the confines of the law.
When pressed again, Earnest claimed that the “law has been enforced under this president.”
“What we’re seeing, though, is an increasing backlog in processing these claims; that there are individuals who are detained, who are given a notice to appear in court; in many cases, they’re subjected to things like alternative detention where they wear an ankle bracelet,” he said.
It may take years to process some illegal immigrants who are being released with “papers” to appear before judges or federal officials, and numerous illegal immigrants have said, despite the Obama administration’s statements to the contrary, that they made the journey from Central America to the United States because they felt Obama would not deport them if they made it across the border.