DHS Secretary Says He'll Do 'Background Checks' to Ensure Amnestied Illegals Won't Commit Terrorism

By Penny Starr | September 22, 2014 | 4:43pm EDT

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson testified at a House Homeland Security Committee hearing on Sept. 17, 2014. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) – Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said at a House Homeland Security Committee hearing on Wednesday that granting amnesty to millions of illegal aliens in the United States could encourage terrorists among them to come out of the shadows.

“From my homeland security perspective, I want people who are living in this country undocumented to come forward, to get on the books, and subject themselves to a background check so that I can know who they are and whether it’s the current DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program or a path to citizenship – whether it’s deferred action or earned path to citizenship. From my homeland security perspective, I want people to come forward,” Johnson said.

To which Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) replied with air of disbelief: “Do we honestly believe that any would-be terrorist or criminal or drug dealer is going to come forward to have a criminal background check done on them? They’re going to continue to remain underground.

“Nobody with a criminal record is going to come forward,” Barletta said.

Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) questioned Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson at a House Homeland Security Committee hearing on Sept. 17, 2014. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

Johnson testified on a panel that included James Comey, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, and was focused on threats to the homeland given the rise of the terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or Levant (ISIL) and the continuous flow of people across the U.S. border with Mexico.

In his line of questioning, Barletta asked about the possibility that terrorists could be among the millions of people who have successfully entered the country illegally and cited the case of Mahmud Abouhalima, one of the terrorists convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center attack that killed six people and wounded more than 1,000.

“President Obama has told the American people and potential terrorists that he plans to grant some form of administrative amnesty to potentially millions of those currently in the country unlawfully,” Barletta said.

“Secretary Johnson as you make recommendations to the president as to how he should implement such a program. How will you assure the American people that another [Mahmud] Abouhalima will not slip through the cracks?” Barletta asked.

Johnson used the opportunity to respond to advocate for amnesty.

“Congressman, I am very focused on knowing as much as we can about individuals who are undocumented in this country,” Johnson said. “And I believe that if an earned pathway to citizenship were to become law, that would encourage people to come forward and submit to a background check so they can get on the books.

“I know there’s a lot of debate about --- just give me a second please – debate about the earned path to citizenship,” Johnson said.

“From my homeland security perspective, I want people who are living in this country undocumented to come forward, to get on the books, and subject themselves to a background check so that I can know who they are and whether it’s the current DACA program or a path to citizenship – whether it’s deferred action or earned path to citizenship from my homeland security perspective I want people to come forward and submit …” he added.

“But Secretary Johnson, I dealt with this as a mayor in my hometown,” said Barletta, former mayor of Hazelton, Pa. “Do we honestly believe that any would-be terrorist or criminal or drug dealer is going to come forward to have a criminal background check done on them – they’re going to continue to remain underground.

“Nobody with a criminal record is going to come forward,” Barletta said.

“The more I can learn about the undocumented population in the country, the better; the more effectively we can use our removal resources against the type of person you just described, the better,” Johnson said. “And so I’m interested in going after public safety, national security threats in terms of our removal resources.”

Barletta also cited the 9/11 Commission Report that said that 15 of the 19 hijackers in the Sept. 11, 2001 attack by on New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania could have been “intercepted or deported through more diligent enforcement of immigration laws,” the report states in its summary.

“Why are we not taking up the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission report so that we don’t have another attack again,” Barletta said.

Johnson replied: “There are a number of 9/11 Commission recommendations that I wish we could all adopt.”

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