Washington, DC – Last month, Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL) was among the Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) to meet with Secretary John Kelly of the Department of Homeland Security. In the closed door meeting that lasted more than an hour, Sec. Kelly was questioned about the continuation of the DACA program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals); ICE arrests targeting the parents and family of children seeking refuge; detention and deportation of those with no criminal record and/or stays of deportation; the renewal of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for numerous countries; and the deportation of U.S. veterans.
The following is a statement from Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez, a Member of the Judiciary Committee and Chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
“I think we have to prepare for the worst and get ready to fight mass deportation. We showed up at airports to fight the Muslim and Refugee Ban and now DREAMers and people who have lived here legally for decades with TPS are in imminent danger.
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. So, I fear for anybody currently with DACA or TPS.”
This was a wake-up call that Trump, Sessions and Kelly are serious about mass deportation and are anxious to get started. It is a call to action for people who oppose mass deportation and turning the documented into undocumented so that they can be deported.
Upon questioning, Sec. Kelly made it clear he does not understand how his agency works or how the Congress works. He stood by his past remarks that Congress should change the law if we don’t like it, as if Democrats have not been fighting Republican obstruction for years, and asking for a vote on immigration reform, the DREAM Act and other legislation. Sec. Kelly says it is up to Congress, but his party is the obstacle standing in the way of a modern immigration system.
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. He is playing along with Trump’s agenda to deport millions and pretending to not understand his powers to do something about it. ‘Just following orders’ is not a valid defense, especially when you have the power to prevent a tragedy for millions of American citizens and their families.
Trump, Sessions and Kelly want to take 800,000 DREAMers with DACA and hundreds of thousands with TPS who are registered with the government and in compliance with the law and make them into criminals, felons, and deportees in the next few months. Anyone with a conscience who thinks legal immigration is an integral part of who we are as a country just got called to action.