Former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson came out on Monday and totally rejected the idea of being appointed as the “border czar” after Rep. Henry Cuellar and Sen. Lindsey Graham, both called on President Joe Biden to name him or someone similar to help take over efforts to combat the influx of illegal migrants spilling across the border.
“There’s less than a zero chance that I would take that role on,” Johnson stated during a chat on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
“Effectively, I had that role for three years,” he added.
Johnson stated that when he saw the reports about both lawmakers requesting him for the job, he called Cuellar and said, “hey I thought you guys liked me.”
Last week, Cuellar, D-Texas, and Graham, R-S.C., asked Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in a letter to create a “special executive position” to handle the border and praised Johnson for having an “exceptional bipartisan reputation” that would suit him well in the role.
Johnson on Monday, however, said that Mayorkas, as DHS secretary, is already the “border czar.”
“He controls the federal government’s assets, land, sea, and air, on our southern border. He understands the positives, he’s sensitive to the problem and he’s addressing the issue,” Johnson went on to explain. “From owning this problem for three years, I know this.”
Still, certain things can be done on the southern border to enhance enforcement, even though former President Donald Trump’s administration “obviously went way too far” and was “cruel and inhumane.”
Further, some things can be done to deter illegal border crossings, but they will only have a short-term effect as long as underlying conditions in Central America persist, said Johnson.
“We saw that during the Obama administration and President Trump saw that as well,” Johnson continued. “The answer to this problem has to be addressing the poverty, the violence in Central America. Otherwise, we’re going to continue to see these kinds of spikes for the foreseeable future.”
Johnson said that he knows from his own experience during a similar spike in 2014, there is emergency authority for Mayorkas and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate a more broad response that would include the departments of Defense and Health and Human Sevices.
Johnson then warned that cleaning up the border is a hard task, noting it is not an “easy fix.”
“People in Washington want quick answers,” he commented. “They want easy fixes like shutting down the border, things of that nature. This is not an easy fix. It requires a dedicated, sustained effort over multiple administrations to address the push factors.”
He then said that despite the deterrents used at the border to help slow the crossing of migrants, nothing would really change until the main issue, which is in Central America, is addressed, saying this is where people “making the very basic decision to flee a burning building, send their kids up here, even if it means they only stay for three years during the pendency of the underlying situation. It may take years but that is the answer.”