DHS Sec. Johnson: Opposed To Mandating Compliance With Immigration Detainers, Eliminating Them

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Department of Homeland Security Sec. Jeh Johnson says he opposes mandating compliance with detainers, and is in fact in the process of eliminating them.

On a conference call with law enforcement officials last week, Breitbart News has learned, Johnson addressed recent bills introduced by lawmakers to force sanctuary jurisdictions to comply with federal immigration law and immigration detainers.

Johnson stressed that he is opposed to mandating detainer compliance.

I have said and I will say when I have to next testify before Congress on Tuesday that the best way to bring about what we want to do is through a cooperative relationship where we’re each agreeing to cooperate and partner with the other. I think that is the best and most effective way for us to do this. I do not want to see Congress legislate and mandate compliance with detainers and there will be a lot of interest in doing that in Congress, which I am opposed to.

On the call he further addressed changes to immigration enforcement, specifically the move to replace the Secure Communities program with the Priority Enforcement Program or PEP.

Last year, alone something like 12,000 of our detainers were not acted up and so we created this new program — the Priority Enforcement Program — I announced it in November. It is now stood up and available for those who are willing to accept it and it essentially does two things differently than the Secure Communities program. First, with some exceptions, we are doing away with detainers.

A detainer is something that, I am sure you all know is an instance where we say to you ‘Please detain this person until we can come get them.’ And in the courts, the courts were saying ‘You, sheriffs, do not have the authority to do this, to hold somebody in custody longer than you would otherwise do so to wait for the immigration people to come get them.’ And so what we’re doing now is we’re asking for a notification. Notify us before you release somebody and we will come get them before you would otherwise release them. That’s number one.

Number two, we will only, pursuant to the new policy, ask for somebody who is a priority. Who has been convicted of certain specific crimes or there is reason to believe the person is a terrorist or a criminal street member — criminal street gang member. And so we will no longer be asking for somebody simply because they are undocumented, which is what led to a lot of the political controversy.

Johnson is slated to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. In recent weeks there has been renewed concern and legislation dealing with sanctuary cities following the murder of a young woman, allegedly by an illegal immigrant, in the sanctuary city of San Francisco.

Additionally, last week a group of Senate Republican raised concerns about PEP, charging that it threatens public safety.

“Under PEP, countless criminal aliens who have managed to evade conviction will be released, endangering our communities. More crimes will be committed, and precious resources will be spent to re-apprehend these individuals, a process that significantly endangers the safety of your officers and agents,” the group of senators wrote in a letter to Sec. Jeh Johnson.

In a statement, Immigration and Customs Enforcement highlighted the transition to PEP as a positive approach that targets criminals. Interestingly, ICE noted that it is still issuing detainers under the new program. On the call Johnson said the department is looking to “do away with detainers.”

ICE continues to work cooperatively with our local law enforcement partners throughout the country to develop policies and procedures that best represent all agencies’ efforts to uphold public safety. The Department of Homeland Security is in the process of implementing a new initiative called the Priority Enforcement Program – PEP for short – which supports community policing while ensuring ICE takes custody of dangerous criminals before they are released into the community.   ICE is now issuing detainers and requests for notification with respect to individuals who meet our heightened enforcement priorities under PEP to ensure individuals who pose a threat to public safety are not released from prisons or jails into our communities. PEP is a balanced, common-sense approach, that places the focus where it should be: on criminals and individuals who threaten the public safety. ICE is committed to working with its law enforcement partners nationwide to achieve that mission

DHS did not respond to request for comment about the specifics of the conference call.