The Corner

Jeh Johnson, Amnesty Coach?

Some observers have feared that President Obama’s selection of Jeh “You can call me Jay” Johnson for Secretary of Homeland Security suggested “a shift from the department’s emphasis on immigration and border issues to a greater focus on security against possible attacks.” It’s not clear how DHS could downgrade immigration enforcement any more than it already has, but this concern at least seems plausible given Johnson’s experience as top civilian lawyer for the Pentagon, where he dealt with drone policy, Gitmo, and gays in the military. The president commended his “deep understanding of the threats and challenges facing the United States.”

But over the weekend an acquaintence who works with, but not in, DHS said he thought Johnson might have been picked precisely because of the ongoing amnesty push. Given his relative lack of management experience, he certainly wasn’t picked to try to bring coherence to the gigantic, sprawling, disjointed agency, something my acquaintence (who doesn’t work in immigration) thinks is desperately needed. Rather he worried that Johnson’s political finesse in shepherding the end of Dont’ Ask/Don’t Tell was what attracted the president, with that finesse (and a disproportionate share of Johnson’s time and attention) to be focused on trying to move amnesty through Congress.

For all I know, Obama really did pick him because of his Pentagon experience. Or maybe he just liked his name (“Jeh” is the name of a Liberian chief who is said to have saved his grandfather’s life while he was on a League of Nations mission to that country). But the “amnesty coach” explanation makes more sense than anything else I’ve heard.

Mark Krikorian — Mark Krikorian, a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues, has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995.

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