DACA at risk and other immigration news – July 13, 2017

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Illinois Congressional Representative Luis Gutiérrez spoke after the Congressional Hispanic Caucus meeting with Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.  (Photo from Congressman Gutierrez Facebook post)

Congressional Hispanic Caucus members met with Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly on Wednesday and came away fearing for the future of DACA. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, instituted by the Obama administration, gives temporary protection from deportation and temporary work permits to more than 800,000 undocumented young people brought here as children by their parents.

While Trump initially threatened to abolish DACA, he later said the young people should “rest easy.” Kelly said he personally supports DACA, but that it probably would be vulnerable to a legal challenge. Texas leads a group of Republican attorneys general that has threatened a court challenge to DACA if the Trump administration does not begin phasing out the program by September 5.

Does Kelly’s statement signal that the administration will end DACA? Or that it will not defend DACA if there is a court challenge? Or that the decision will be up to Attorney General Jeff Sessions?

Representative Luis Gutiérrez said, “If you’re going to count on Jeff Sessions to save DACA, then DACA is ended.”

According to the Miami Herald, TPS is also at risk:

“Members of the Hispanic caucus said Kelly told them Wednesday that federal programs that grant Haitians, Salvadorans and Hondurans temporary protected status because of past disasters in their homelands are also at risk of being canceled, or not renewed, by the Trump administration. Haiti and Honduras are set to lose that status in January.”

DHS’s Kelly tells Hispanic caucus DACA might not survive court challenge (Washington Post, 7/12/17)

“Kelly’s meeting with the caucus came nearly two weeks after officials from Texas and 10 other states warned Attorney General Jeff Sessions that they would sue the federal government if it does not rescind Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program by Sept. 5.

“Members of the Hispanic caucus said they urged Kelly to support bipartisan legislation known as the Bridge Act that would effectively preserve the DACA program. But they expressed skepticism that the Republican-controlled Congress would pass any law to spare undocumented immigrants from deportation — or that the Trump administration would defend DACA in court.”

Top Trump official warns special immigration status may end soon for a million people (Miami Herald, 7/12/17)

“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 deportation.

“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….

“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.”

Homeland Security chief has doubts about legality of immigration program (Chicago Tribune, 7/12/17)

“Kelly attended a closed-door meeting with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, who pressed him on former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrival Program. DACA gives hundreds of thousands of young people brought into the country as children protection from deportation and a work permit.

“A group of attorneys general has called on the Trump administration to phase out the program. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and others have threated to amend a district court case to challenge the DACA program unless the Trump administration acts to phase it out.”

Press Release Gutiérrez warns those with DACA or TPS to prepare for the worst (Office of Congressmember Luis Gutiérrez, 7/12/17)

“Secretary Kelly determines the future of TPS and basically told us he is not sure if he will extend it for hundreds of thousands of people. He also said that the future of DACA is up to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, America’s leading advocate against immigration, so Kelly was basically telling us DACA is facing a death sentence.  They actually want to take millions of people who are documented – with our own government – make them undocumented, and then go after them and their families. …

“Sec. Kelly said he could not help people and their American citizen children who have no criminal record and are being deported, as if he doesn’t understand that he has the power under current law to spare people through his prosecutorial discretion.  I told him straight up that he could prevent the August deportation of Francisca Lino – the wife of a U.S. citizen and mother of U.S. citizen children in Chicago – just by picking up the phone and he seemed not to know he has that power.

“He either does not understand his authority under current law or was stonewalling or doing a very convincing job of playing dumb – or maybe some combination of the three.”

No more refugees

July 12 marked the beginning of the refugee travel ban and the end of refugee admissions to the United States for this fiscal year.

The travel ban, which says no to all refugee admissions, was modified by the Supreme Court to say that refugees with a “bona fide connection” to the United States could be admitted to the country.

But then there’s the overall limit on the number of refugees allowed to enter this year. The president sets that number. President Obama increased the number from 85,000 at 110,000 for this fiscal year, which ends September 30. Then Trump cut the number to 50,000. That 50,000 cap was reached on July 12.

U.S. hits cap of 50,000 refugee admissions (Los Angeles Times, 7/12/17)

Q&A Trump’s travel ban has just hit refugees. Here’s what that means for those hoping for sanctuary in the U.S. (Los Angeles Times, 7/12/17)

On the process:

Once the U.S. government has decided on these most vulnerable people, there then begins a process of in-person interviews, conducted by Department of Homeland Security staff, to build up the case file on these individuals. They will conduct an interview. They go away. They come back. They re-interview you. Does your story stay the same? This can happen six, eight times over the course of a year or two.

Once Department of Homeland Security is satisfied that they have an accurate case file on you, your file is then turned over to the security vetting machine. This is where your biometric data is run through up to 14 different databases — FBI, CIA, etc. — which takes another year. Then you are finally cleared to come to the United States.

The process takes two years on average, but for some countries it can take five or six or even eight years.

On the impact of halting all refugee admissions on July 12:

“So that means there are about 60,000 refugees that are in the final stages of being vetted that were supposed to come to the United States this year, and now they are left in limbo — literally. They have no idea if they ever will travel to the United States, or if it will be delayed by months or years.

“It’s really unfortunate, because when a refugee is in the final stages of the process and getting ready to leave, they will sell all their household materials, because you only bring a suitcase with your clothes with you. And so now we have refugees in camps that are getting rid of everything, yet at the last minute we’re saying, “No, wait a minute. Just sit tight.”

“We’re also splitting families. We had a Somali family arrive last week, quite literally that’s what they told us: They have some family back in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, and now they have no idea if they will ever be able to travel.”


And in other immigration news

Trump crafting plan to slash legal immigration (Politico, 7/12/17)

“Trump plans to get behind a bill being introduced later this summer by GOP Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia that, if signed into law, would, 2027, slash in half the number of legal immigrants entering the country each year, according to four people familiar with the conversations. Currently, about 1 million legal immigrants enter the country annually; that number would fall to 500,000 over the next decade.

“The senators have been working closely with Stephen Miller, a senior White House official known for his hawkish stance on immigration. The issue is also a central priority for Steve Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, who has several promises to limit immigration scribbled on the walls of his office.”

Border officers illegally used lies and coercion to thwart asylum seekers, lawsuit says (Los Angeles Times, 7/12/17)

“Customs and Border Protection officers have been turning away asylum seekers illegally at the U.S.-Mexico border for more than a year, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday by several immigrant rights organizations….

“Five of the six plaintiffs listed in the federal class-action lawsuit said they were turned away at one of San Diego’s two ports of entry, Otay Mesa and San Ysidro. …

‘One asylum seeker reported being told, “Donald Trump just signed new laws saying there is no asylum for anyone,” according to the lawsuit.”

Protests oppose Freeborn County ICE contract outside jail (Albert Lea Tribune, 7/11/17)

“Approximately 40 immigration activists protested Freeborn County’s contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Sunday outside the Freeborn County jail, demanding that deportations end and Freeborn County break its contract with ICE.”


About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet, www.tcdailyplanet.net, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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