Jeh Johnson: Migrant Center Fire ‘Bound to Happen’ with Border ‘Crisis’ — Asylum System ‘a Magnet’

On Wednesday’s broadcast of NewsNation’s “Elizabeth Vargas Reports,” former DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson stated that the U.S. asylum system is “a magnet” and that the fire at a migrant center was “bound to happen” due to the awful conditions along the U.S.-Mexico border, which are “a crisis.”

Johnson said, “Elizabeth, in my judgment, it is a crisis. I said, four years ago, when the numbers were at about 4,000 a day during the Trump administration, that that was a crisis. We’ve seen numbers of 4,000 and higher. The good news is, for the last two or three months, the numbers have been down. January, February, the number of apprehensions on our southern border has decreased. But I know that the administration is very focused on what will happen when the Title 42 authority ends in May and they’re thinking through their options very, very carefully. The situation is challenging on a number of levels. First of all, it’s much bigger than it was when I was in office…the numbers, over 2 million apprehensions in a year. When I was in office, we’d see numbers ranging at about 400,000, 300,000 a year. The source countries are — that list is much longer…it includes Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, now, in addition to the Central American countries. Plus, the smugglers know how to move numbers of migrants in much larger volumes, now. Ultimately, the lesson I learned when I was in office, we can do things on our southern border to enhance enforcement, to ratchet up enforcement, sending people back. But as long as the underlying push factors persist in these source countries, as long as it is as bad as it is, poverty, violence, corruption, they’re going to keep coming. And so, we need to focus on trying to address those problems in the source countries. I know President Biden believes that.”

He added, “The reality is that there are aspects of our broken system that serve as magnets for illegal immigration…you’ve noted that, on the front end of an asylum application process, the bar to establish what we call credible fear is relatively low, though the ultimate bar to obtain asylum in this country is much higher. And in between are years for the process to play itself out. And migrants know that when they come here, and so the backlog in the system is itself a magnet for immigration, which is why Congress and the executive branch really do need to get together on this.”

Johnson concluded, “The conditions on Mexico’s northern border with us [are] terrible, when you have this kind of backlog of people waiting to get into the United States and the facilities there are not ideal. What happened at that migrant center was a real, real tragedy. But something like that, regrettably, is bound to happen.”

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett


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