President Donald Trump's top immigration official warned Hispanic members
of Congress Wednesday that over a million people living in the United
States under a special protected status could soon be placed in line for
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told members of the Congressional
Hispanic Caucus that the fate of deferred action program known as DACA
— Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — will likely be
determined by the courts, perhaps as soon as September, and that attorneys
he’s consulted with do not think the program is legally sustainable.
Kelly also would not commit to extending temporary protected status, or
TPS, for nationals from Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and four other
countries, but indicated that TPS for Haitians will likely end.
“I have never left a meeting so emotionally affected than from what
I just heard inside,” said U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., who
estimated that millions of people could be deported. “And I’m
positive that my colleagues heard the same thing that I heard.”
Kelly spent more than an hour in an emotional Capitol Hill meeting discussing
DACA, TPS and other Trump administration concerns with the Democrats.
It was a dramatic shift in tone for Kelly who in previous meetings has
cast himself as someone who protected the program. Trump and Republican
leaders have also repeatedly stated that the 800,000 immigrants currently
protected by the DACA program shouldn’t be concerned.
The program not only shields from deportation young people brought into
the country illegally as children by their undocumented parents, but it
also allows them to attain work permits.
In February, Trump promised to treat the so-called Dreamers “with
“To me, it’s one of the most difficult subjects I have because
you have these incredible kids — in many cases, not in all cases,”
Trump said during a February news conference. “In some of the cases,
they’re having DACA and they’re gang members and they’re
drug members, too. But you have some absolutely incredible kids —
I would say mostly — they were brought in here in such a way. It’s
a very, very tough subject.”
That changed last month when a group of Republican state officials from
10 states, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, called on Trump to
stop the controversial program put in place by President Obama in 2012.
The Trump administration has until Sept. 5 to decide if the administration
will phase out DACA or risk a court challenge from the states.
Kelly said he personally supports the DACA program and would not rescind
the program, but that he didn’t expect the administration to defend
it in a court challenge. He pressed the group of Democratic lawmakers
to work with Republicans to pass legislation that could provide a long-term solution.
Concerns that DACA could be eliminated are significant because of the Texas threat. The courts
already struck down a similar policy proposal that would have expanded
the eligible population via another program known as DAPA — Deferred
Actions for Parents of Americans — that also lengthened the accompanying
work permits to three years. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld
the appellate court’s decision in a split decision.
Kelly rushed from the meeting without answering questions from the press.
His security detail physically stopped several reporters from approaching
the secretary as they sought to ask him about DACA as he walked down the hall.
But a Homeland Security spokesman said the secretary’s comments to
the members of Congress were his personal observation and shouldn’t
be interpreted as administration policy.
“From his point of view, in conversations he’s had with attorneys
both inside and outside the department, that most of them felt that DACA
as it exists, is not legally sustainable,” said David Lapan, DHS
press secretary. “That was his personal observation.”
But it’s strongest indication yet of the administration’s thinking
on the future of DACA since the threat of the lawsuit.
not the first time, the Homeland Security chief has warned roughly 60,000 Haitians with protective status could soon be
forced to return.
Kelly sent waves of fear throughout Haitian communities in Miami and across
the United States last month when he said that it will ultimately be up
to Congress to resolve the issue by changing the law.
“I have a law that I am supposed to enforce and I think the members
of Congress who are interested in this, and there are a lot of them, should
probably sit down and talk about it and come up with some legislation
to fix it. I think it’s on them,” Kelly said in an interview
with the Miami Herald last month.
TPS for Haitians was expected to expire this month, but Kelly decided in
June to extend the status an additional six months to allow Haitians more
time to prepare for the change. It will now expire in January unless it
is extended again.
In conversations, he’s had with attorneys both inside and outside
the department, most of them felt that DACA as it exists, is not legally
David Lapan, DHS press secretary
The United States granted TPS to Haitian nationals living in the United
States following the cataclysmic earthquake in 2010 that left more than
300,000 dead, 1.5 million homeless and an equal number injured. But while
the country continues to suffer from extreme poverty, Kelly said Wednesday
in the meeting with Democrats that conditions for which TPS was granted
have largely been resolved.
“There is no doubt in mind that his characterization of temporary
protective status for Haitians was coming to an end,” said Nanette
Barragan, D-Calif, after listening to Kelly’s explanation.
Marleine Bastien, a leading figure in the Haitian community in Miami on
TPS, accused the Trump administration of searching for any excuse to end
protected status for Haitians.
“They are using the wrong argument on purpose because anybody who
isn't blind can see that Haiti has yet to recover,” said Bastien,
executive director of Haitian Women in Miami. “We believe [the decision]
Homeland Security initially grants TPS for between six and 18 months, and
can renew the status indefinitely if conditions remain unsafe or the country
is unable to handle the return of its nationals. The renewals are a source
of some controversy in the United States as some critics feel the benefits
have basically become permanent since some nationals from Honduras and
Nicaragua have held the status for roughly 20 years.
Thousands of Haitians still remain in camps seven years after the earthquake,
Bastien said, and considerable damage remains from last year's Hurricane
Matthew along with a cholera epidemic introduced by U.N. peacekeepers
10 months after the quake.
“The Trump administration is being hypocritical and using deceit
to justify their TPS termination,” she said. “It is wrong,
it is immoral and not smart.”
Miami Herald Reporter Jacqueline Charles contributed to this report.
Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/article161031809.html#storylink=cpy
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