Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson met some of the people his agency is deporting when he visited an immigration detention center Friday in west suburban Broadview.
Johnson said what he learned there, and from a meeting with Chicago area immigration activists, will help him to perform a review of deportation policy which has been ordered by President Barack Obama.
Johnson had been invited to Chicago by Sen. Dick Durbin, (D-Ill), and toured local immigration facilities with Rep. Luis Gutierrez, (D-Ill.), a leader in the immigration movement, and representative Bill Foster, (D-Ill).
“We actually spent time talking to those who are about to be deported. . . many of whom had been in this country for years,” Johnson said.
He also said the immigration system is broken and that he hopes a proposed immigration reform bill passes.
“We need to pass that bill for a variety of reasons from my Homeland Security perspective,” but, meanwhile, “I’m looking at how we can fix that system within the confines of existing law,” Johnson said at a news conference at the Dirksen Federal Building downtown.
At the Broadview detention center, Johnson said he witnessed families being broken up.
“Part of enforcing the law consistent with American values is that we do so in a humane manner and in a way that to the fullest extent possible respects the sanctity of the family unit,” Johnson said.
The Secretary also met with more than a dozen local immigration leaders.
“He was very open to our suggestings and ideas,” said immigration attorney Royal Berg. “I think he’s going to implement those ideas if he believes he can and try to see that the laws are enforced in the most humane manner possible, with a focus on trying to keep families together.”
All three legislators who accompanied Johnson Friday urged the House to pass immigration reform.
Gutierrez said enough Republicans support the measure to get it passed if it came to a vote. But the defeat of Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor at the hands of a Tea Party candidate has made it even less likely that House GOP leaders would allow any votes on immigration bills.