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Jeh Johnson talks terrorism, refugees and border patrol

Jeh Johnson, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, testified before congress Thursday morning to discuss how the U.S. plans to continue taking in Syrian refugees, deal with terror threats and protect the country's southern and northern borders.

But only 13 minutes into the hearing, several protesters began vocally challenging Johnson's deportation policy for illegal immigrants.

One protester yelled "You have blood on your hands Jeh Johnson. End all deportations." Another reiterated the "blood on your hands" line.

"It would be very efficient if anybody else wants to stand up and be removed to do that instead of starting the meeting again," Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley and panel chairman said. "If anyone else wants to exercise their right of free speech, do so now, please."

After security escorted the protesters out of the room, the hearing went on interrupted.

In the wake of the deadly terror attacks in Istanbul at the Ataturk Airport on Tuesday, killing 41 people and injuring more than 200, Johnson was questioned about the possibility for similar attacks at U.S. airports.

"We should not focus our attention on things like airports to the exclusion of other public places and public events," Johnson said. "We continue to encourage the public to travel, to celebrate the holidays, to celebrate the July 4 holiday, continue to go to the public events. But be aware and be vigilant."

"Public awareness and public vigilance can and does make a difference in terms of detecting terrorist activity," he added.

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Other questions touched on anti-Muslim animus and how it might hinder preventing future attacks.

"I think that the rhetoric that vilifies Muslim communities, rhetoric that vilifies a religion is contrary to those efforts," Johnson said.

Johnson double-downed on a recent U.S. commitment to welcome up to 10,000 Syrian refugees into the country in the next year.

Currently, about 5,000 refugees have been approved to settle legally in the U.S., Johnson said, and 5,000 to 6,000 are still waiting security checks before final approval.

"In terms of Syrian refugees, we have also added security checks to the process where they are warranted with a surge of resources," Johnson said.

For border security, Johnson stood by his previous objectives of cracking down on illegal crossings with "more technology, more surveillance, more eyes on the border."

North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis took a political jab at presumptive nominee Donald Trump before proceeding to ask the secretary a question about implementing better border surveillance technology.

"One thing I like to do when we start talking about securing the border: The rhetoric is about building a wall," Sen. Tillis said. "I don't think anyone here thinks we're going to build a 20-foot wall from one side of the Mexican border to the other."

Johnson said that the U.S. has worked closely in the past two years with Mexico, holding them more and more responsible for border enforcement.

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