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Jeh Johnson: In 2014, We ‘Expanded Family Detention’

On Thursday’s broadcast of MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports,” former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson stated that in response to the spike in illegal immigration in 2014, “we did a number of things, including, by the way, working with the government of Mexico and obtaining their cooperation on securing their southern border. But we also expanded family detention, which was, I freely admit, controversial.”

Johnson said, “Illegal migration reacts sharply to perceived changes in enforcement policy, in the short term. But it always reverts back, longer-term, to the longer-term trends, given the underlying conditions, the so-called push factors in Central America. So, that’s what President Trump and his administration have seen now over the last year. The numbers are 40 or 50 thousand per month, and they’re obviously very frustrated with that. So, in 2014, to deal with the spike then, with the families, we did a number of things, including, by the way, working with the government of Mexico and obtaining their cooperation on securing their southern border. But we also expanded family detention, which was, I freely admit, controversial.”

He continued, “There were just 95 beds out of a total of 34,000 equipped to handle families. We expanded that capability. I will freely admit that I made a big deal out of it, so that people could see what we were doing. It was not capture and release, not catch and release. And then we were confronted with this Flores case. Flores is a settlement. It was a settlement reached in 1997 to deal with the issue of unaccompanied minors. And what Flores basically said, it was an agreement with the government that an unaccompanied child cannot be held in detention, and that an unaccompanied child can only be held in a licensed, non-secure facility. In 2015, the judge overseeing that case, frankly, expanded the terms of that settlement to include families, which we opposed, and we were, frankly, surprised at that ruling. And that’s what this administration is dealing with now. And so, if you read the executive order very carefully, the president’s saying, ‘Okay, it’s now our policy to keep families together, but we need to go back to this judge and get her to agree to change the terms of that settlement.'”

Johnson further stated that transparency is a good idea going forward and the government should focus on helping children separated from their parents or who came to the US without their parents find their parents.

He also said that current DHS Secretary Nielsen’s statement that she doesn’t know HHS is doing is “a little extraordinary.”

(h/t Grabien)

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett

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