WASHINGTON (AP) — Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is set to tell GOP critics that President Barack Obama’s new immigration changes amount to “simple common sense.”
Johnson defends the policies in testimony prepared for a House Homeland Security Committee hearing Tuesday. The executive actions Obama announced two weeks ago will shield some 4 million immigrants here illegally from deportation, as long as they’ve been in the U.S. more than five years and have kids who are citizens or legal permanent residents.
“The reality is that, given our limited resources, these people are not priorities for removal — it’s time we acknowledge that and encourage them to be held accountable,” Johnson says in the testimony. “This is simple common sense.”
Republicans who won full control of Congress in November’s midterm elections don’t see it that way and are vowing to stop Obama, though how they will do so remains unclear. Lawmakers returning from a week-long Thanksgiving break plan to meet on the issue in the days ahead.
“The president’s decision to bypass Congress and grant amnesty to millions of unlawful immigrants is unconstitutional and a threat to our democracy,” the committee’s chairman, Republican Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, said in a statement. “I will use every tool at my disposal to stop the president’s unconstitutional actions from being implemented, starting with this oversight hearing.”
Johnson’s appearance on Capitol Hill also comes as he has emerged as a possible candidate to replace outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Johnson’s role in crafting the immigration changes could complicate that, giving Republicans an outlet to vent their opposition to the policies.
In his testimony, Johnson embraces the policies and takes credit for them. “I recommended to the president each of the Homeland Security reforms to the immigration system that he has decided to pursue,” Johnson says in the prepared remarks.
Obama’s immigration measures also expand an existing program that grants work permits and deportation deferrals to immigrants brought here illegally as kids, and the administrative actions also reorder law enforcement priorities to focus on new arrivals and people with criminal records.
Associated Press writer Alicia A. Caldwell contributed to this report.