DHS Secy: Americans Should ‘Celebrate Our Immigrant Heritage,’ Religion-Based Immigration Policy ‘Counterproductive’

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson urged the American public to “celebrate our immigrant heritage,” and argued that policies proposed by Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, including “having an immigration policy based on religion” are “counterproductive to our homeland security and national security interests” on Tuesday’s broadcast of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Johnson said, in response to a question on the concerns of an ISIS attack on the US like the recent attacks in Brussels, “Well, that’s — it’s a valid concern that Americans should have about the new phase that we’re in. The message that I deliver is that, the public should continue to go to public events, public gatherings, enjoy holidays, freedom to travel, freedom to associate, celebrate our immigrant heritage, but be vigilant, and be aware, and know that a lot of homeland security and law enforcement officials are working overtime to address the existing threats.”

While discussing Cruz’s proposal to patrol Muslim neighborhoods, Johnson stated that “Understanding the terrorist enemy, their motivations, is key. … We’ve spent a lot of time building bridges to American Muslim communities, as you know, because the Islamic State is targeting those communities to carry out attacks, to conduct attacks here in the homeland. So, we spend a lot of time working with Muslim communities, American Muslim communities, and they’re not a monolith. There are many of them, across the country. To help them help us in our homeland security efforts, I have personally been all around the country, to meet with American Muslim communities.”

He added, after being questioned on whether he thought Cruz’s comments undermined his efforts, “I think that, in this phase, it is critical that we build bridges to American Muslim communities, not vilify them, not drive them into the shadows, and encourage them to work with us.”

After being asked a second time if Cruz’s statement harmed his efforts, Johnson answered, “I believe that inflammatory comments about patrolling and securing Muslim neighborhoods, or barring Muslims from entering this country, having an immigration policy based on religion, is counterproductive to our homeland security and national security interests.”

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