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New York Times: New Homeland Security Head Jeh Johnson Needs to Fix Immigration Enforcement

New York Times 
Editorial

The Senate has confirmed Jeh Johnson, once the Pentagon’s top lawyer, to lead the Department of Homeland Security. Mr. Johnson brings a sharp legal mind and reputation for probity to the job. He will need both to manage the department, a daunting agglomeration of agencies and missions and chronic management problems.

Every year the Government Accountability Office publishes a “high-risk list” of federal agencies and departments that it considers “most in need of transformation.” Homeland security has appeared on that list, year after year, for failing to become “a single, cohesive and effective department that is greater than the sum of its parts.” It has many parts: 22 agencies were folded into homeland security in 2003; today the department has more than 240,000 employees handling terrorism prevention, disaster response, immigration (legal and illegal) and many other things. Staffing vacancies are high. Morale is low.

What most needs fixing is immigration enforcement. Under Mr. Johnson’s predecessors, the department’s continually shifting strategies against illegal immigration had two things in common. They were ineffective and cruel. The administration of George W. Bush specialized in high-profile deportations. In one notorious instance, the government professed itself shocked to find Hispanics without papers working in a meat plant in Iowa, so it swooped in and removed them, devastating scores of families and the town they lived in.

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