Obama's Homeland Security secretary: Trump immigration policy 'not working'

A former Secretary of Homeland Security slammed the Trump administration’s immigration policy, saying the current approach is “not working” because it doesn’t address the underlying issues.

"The current administration is now seeing levels of higher than anything in the last 12 years, so plainly what they’re doing is not working and we simply have to address the underlying problem,” Jeh Johnson, who served under the Obama administration, told Hill.TV’s Krystal Ball and Buck Sexton on Wednesday.

Johnson said while he supports a more comprehensive approach to border security, the Trump administration needs to first start addressing the “push factors” like poverty and violence that lead to increases in migration to the southern border.

“You have to start by addressing the push factors — the underlying reasons why people are so desperate to flee Central America, to leave Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador,” Johnson said. “This is the most violent region on Earth.”

The former senior Obama administration official added that there are ways to make investments in these three Central American countries to address the issue.

“There are ways you can make smart investments with a lot of strings attached to address the poverty and violence in these three relatively small countries,” he told Hill.TV. “I’m told by people in DHS today that the limited investment we have made is beginning to make a difference.”

Johnson’s comments come amid an unprecedented surge of migrant families along the Rio Grande.

In February, border patrol agents in El Paso, Texas, said they were “overwhelmed” by the sheer number of migrant families who have turned themselves in after crossing the border. U.S. Customs and Border Protection Kevin McAleenan told The Washington Post on Thursday that the situation has pushed his agency to a “breaking point.”

“CBP [Customs and Border Protection] is facing an unprecedented humanitarian and border security crisis all along our southwest border and nowhere has that crisis manifested more acutely than here in El Paso,” McAleenan told the newspaper.

Although it is not yet clear whether there are more migrants attempting to cross the border or more apprehensions of migrants, the known number of migrants trying to cross the border is on pace to be the largest in more than a decade. According to a report by ABC News, Border security officials estimate the number of migrants apprehended or turned away at the southern border could reach 1 million by the end of the year.

—Tess Bonn