During a candid conversation with Latino USA‘s Maria Hinojosa, former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said that Obama was hurt by being labeled “deporter-in-chief” in 2014. He also said that the administration did “as best we could with what we had to work with” and that he didn’t feel the need to apologize for what many perceive as actions that set the stage for the Trump administration’s current immigration enforcement policies.
“On immigration, early 2014, there was a confluence of what I would say were three events,” explained Johnson during the 33-minute-long interview. “One, we were working with the Congress to try to get comprehensive immigration reform passed. Second, we had the spike in migration from Central America in early 2014, Spring 2014, early Summer 2014. Third as you will recall, President Obama was being heavily criticized for being the so-called ‘deporter-in-chief’ because of the numbers of deportations and that, I know, that that hurt him. That stung him.”
When Hinojosa, the founder of Futuro Media (which owns Latino Rebels), asked Johnson to further explain what Obama meant during this meeting where immigration reform was being discussed, Johnson responded with an explanation of the steps they had taken to push for comprehensive reform.
“[Obama] had recited all of the things that we were trying to do to achieve comprehensive immigration reform that he had begun DACA in 2012, and we wanted to see a path to citizenship codified into law,” Johnson told Latino USA. “But nevertheless we walked away from the meeting with a direction to me to make our system of immigration enforcement more humane.”
During an interview in early April with NPR, Johnson confirmed that Obama did push to expand family detention in 2014. For many, this set the foundation that has given President Trump the authority to enact more aggressive immigration enforcement now.
Towards the very end of the conversation, Hinojosa asked Johnson if he felt the need to apologize for this.
“Secretary Johnson, have you ever thought about apologizing for your role in kind of creating the immigration detention problems situation crisis that we have now?” Hinojosa asked.
“No,” answered Johnson. “Are these issues controversial? Yes. Are people unhappy with the way in which laws are enforced policies are administered? Yes on both sides. Without a doubt these were extraordinarily difficult issues. I handled them, President Obama handled them, as best we could with what we had to work with.”
“What worries me now is that this administration seems unwilling or unable to learn from the experiences of the past,” he later added.
Listen to the full interview below: