Trump asked Homeland Security about a program some worry he’ll use for deportations
Donald Trump has taken the first step toward confirming one of the worst fears of undocumented immigrants who’ve taken advantage of a program that grants them temporary stay in the U.S. A Department of Homeland Security memo seen by Reuters reveals that the president-elect’s team is poking around the agency for information about recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, also known as DACA.
President Barack Obama started the program through an executive action in 2012 as a way for undocumented immigrants who meet certain requirements to achieve two-year status in the U.S. to work or attend college. While Trump pledged to “immediately terminate” DACA on his first day in the Oval Office, immigration groups worried he would take his hard-line policy a step further and use personal information gathered through the program to locate undocumented immigrants and pursue deportations. In fact, some have started advising their clients not to apply for DACA protection at all.
In a Dec. 5 meeting with Homeland Security officials, Trump’s transition team inquired if any employees had altered DACA records out of concern for immigrants’ civil liberties, according to the internal memo. The team also requested copies of every immigration executive order and directive since 2009, when Obama first took office.
While Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an arm of the Department of Homeland Security that oversees the DACA program, already shares information with Citizenship and Immigrant Services (ICE) when cases involve certain criminal offenses, giving ICE full access to pursue deportations would reverse the original intent of the program. In a private analysis, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center found that no president over the last 50 years had used a program granting relief to undocumented immigrants to later target the same group.
California Rep. Judy Chu sent a letter on Dec. 5, along with 109 other members of Congress, urging President Obama to protect information in the database. In his response on Dec. 30, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson reiterated that for decades the agency has used personal information only for immigration enforcement in limited circumstances of criminality or national security.
“We believe these representations made by the U.S. government, upon which DACA applicants most assuredly relied, must continue to be honored,” he wrote.
On Jan. 20, however, retired Marine Gen. John Kelly will replace Johnson at the helm of Homeland Security. Kelly’s experience with immigration is thin, and organizations unsure of what he’ll prioritize are worried about the future of undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
Read more about fears over the program here.