Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on Thursday will renew the Obama administration’s call for passage of a sweeping immigration bill, telling lawmakers that administrative steps now being weighed are “no substitute” for congressional action.
President Obama tasked Johnson in March with reviewing the country’s deportation policies to see if removals of illegal immigrants could be more “humane.” Among the options reportedly on the table is a move by the administration to curtail deportations.
The White House said earlier this week that it would delay the release of Johnson’s findings while there is still a window for passage of a House bill.
“Whatever we do to revise our enforcement policies, however, is no substitute for comprehensive immigration reform passed by Congress,” he said.
In recent days, congressional Democrats have urged Obama to move forward unilaterally if the House won’t take up consideration of a bill. A bill providing for increased border enforcement and a path to citizenship cruised through the Senate last year.
“This bill passed the Senate by a bipartisan vote of 68-32, is supported by President Obama, Democrats and Republicans, the business and labor communities, law enforcement and religious leaders, and, according to polls, the majority of the American people," Johnson said in prepared testimony.
The bill stalled in the House, where there remains no clear way forward in the current election year. A spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called the decision to pause the review “playing politics.”
Johnson is expected to testify Thursday that he continues to meet with various groups as part of the review. An estimated 11.4 million illegal immigrants now in the country will not go away on their own, he said.
“They are not going to ‘self-deport,’ ” he said in the testimony.
“What we are talking about is not amnesty or rewarding people for breaking the law,” Johnson said. “It is an opportunity to actually get right with the law and get in line behind others. It is far preferable to what we have now.”