Both in public and in private meetings, new Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson readily acknowledges there is a border “problem” that needs fixing — a major departure from his predecessor, Janet Napolitano, whose consistent refrain was that the border was more secure than it had ever been.

Mr. Johnson, by contrast, has shied away from using Ms. Napolitano’s catchphrase, stressing to Congress that more resources are still needed to get the border in shape. And in a private meeting last month with those who want to see stricter enforcement, Mr. Johnson explicitly acknowledged the issues and asked for solutions.

“There was a clear difference. When we met with him, he acknowledged right off the bat that he was well aware there was a problem on the southern border. There was not even a debate about that,” said Rosemary Jenks, government relations manager for NumbersUSA.

Mr. Johnson, who will appear before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on Wednesday to field questions from lawmakers, has been on the job for nearly six months, and in that time he has built a reputation for soliciting opinions from all sides, including from Ms. Jenks and other groups that fiercely oppose the administration’s enforcement approach.

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