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Homeland Security secretary: Illegals have ‘earned the right to be citizens’

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The 11.5 million people who are in the United States illegally have “earned the right to be citizens,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Friday.

Johnson spoke to more than 270 mayors at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in one of his first public appearances since taking the helm of the Department of Homeland Security in December, according to CNSNews.com.

“An earned path to citizenship for those currently present in this country is a matter of, in my view, homeland security to encourage people to come out from the shadows, to be accountable, to participate in the American experience, the American society,” he said.

“It is also, frankly, in my judgment, a matter of who we are as Americans, to offer the opportunity to those who want to be citizens, who’ve earned the right to be citizens, who are present in this country–many of whom came here as children–to have the opportunity that we all have to try to become American citizens.”

Citing immigration enforcement as a core agency mission, Johnson said the Department of Homeland Security is responsible for “guarding against terrorism, securing our borders, safeguarding cyberspace and critical infrastructure in partnership with the private sector, and supporting emergency preparedness and response efforts at every level.”

Johnson called for “comprehensive, common sense, immigration reform,” saying border security has improved over the past four years, according to CNSNews.

“Common sense immigration reform is supported by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, businesses and if the polls [are] to be believed, the majority of the American people,” he said. “Border security is inseparable from homeland security.”

Listen to Johnson’s comments here via CNSNews.com:

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