The GOP’s new House Speaker, Mike Johnson (R-LA), is a mild-mannered centrist who has sharply criticized President Joe Biden’s illegal migration wave for cutting Americans’ wages and impoverishing their communities.
“We have a catastrophe at our southern border,” the new Speaker announced Wednesday in his first speech:
The Senate and the White House can no longer ignore the problem. From Texas to New York, wave after wave of illegal migrants are stressing our communities to their breaking points. We know that our streets are being flooded with fentanyl and in all of our communities, children and even adults are dying from it. The status quo is unacceptable. Inaction is unacceptable and we must come together and address the broken border. We have to do it.
Johnson’s centrist approach to migration will help build voters’ trust in the GOP’s sometime-weak determination to make painful but useful deals, noted Mark Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration Studies.
“My sense is that immigration critics can trust Johnson to get as much as is realistically achievable when he has to make compromises,” said Krikorian, explaining:
Regular people understand that we’re not going to get everything we want. The question is, “Is the person negotiating from your perspective and then accepting whatever compromises he has to accept, or is he basically trying to get you to accept things that you don’t want to accept?” Do you trust the guy who [claims to be] speaking for you?
Speaker Mike Johnson: “We have a catastrophe at our southern border…our streets are being flooded with fentanyl…the status quo is unacceptable.”pic.twitter.com/LqHue9c5Aa
— Immigration Reform Law Institute (@IRLILaw) October 25, 2023
“We’re a nation of laws, not of men, and this is playing with fire,” Johnson told a meeting hosted by Krikorian Center for Immigration Studies in October 2021. The Democrats unanimously oppose compromise and caution, he said, adding:
Their plan will increase unemployment of course. It will reduce the wages of American workers. And of course, it will encourage more bad behavior. It incentivizes people to break our laws. Again, it’s just crazy public policy– I could go on and on.
“We have an obligation to fully enforce federal immigration laws,” Johnson said. “But the Biden administration has effectively ordered the persons who are in charge of this, who have this responsibility on the border, not to do their job.”
Johnson is also hated by pro-migration groups and other progressives.
“The new speaker, Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), might be more dangerous than the firebrand Ohio Republican,” complained Ruth Marcus, a pro-migration columnist at the Washington Post. adding:
For Jordan’s shirt sleeves demeanor and wrestler’s pugnacity, substitute a bespectacled, low-key presentation, a law degree and an unswerving commitment to conservative dogma and former president Donald Trump.
The Texas episode was of a piece with Johnson’s conservative worldview. Before being elected to Congress, he was a senior lawyer and national spokesman for the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative group that opposesabortion, same-sex marriage and LGBTQ+ rights.
“We’ve had record levels of illegal immigration, a rapid decline in deportations, skyrocketing fentanyl deaths across our country — and the Secret Service, which is a DHS component, can’t determine who left cocaine at the White House?” @RepMikeJohnson pic.twitter.com/g1waGY4UmS
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) July 26, 2023
Johnson’s rise spotlights the Republicans’ increasing focus on the economic impact of migration, said Krikorian. For Johnson, Krikorian said:
It’s not just “Border! Border! Border!” [and] it’s not just a matter of security and complying with the law. It is also an issue of protecting working Americans … [and] that is increasingly becoming mainstream for Republicans.
“The fact that he is now Speaker of the House suggests that connecting immigration to labor is increasingly at the center of the Republican critique of our current immigration policy,” he added. “That’s all to the good.”