A key member of Congress is warning illegal immigrants to be prepared for “mass deportations” after emerging from what he characterized as a disappointing meeting with Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly.
Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat who has been a chief defender of immigrants’ rights, said as many as 1 million people here on temporary amnesties from deportation could see their status expire, and could face deportation.
About 800,000 of those are Dreamers, who face a major court test after Texas said it would sue to overturn the 2012 deportation amnesty, known as DACA, that was created by President Obama but has been continued under Mr. Kelly and President Trump. Some 200,000 others are here under a humanitarian program, Temporary Protected Status (TPS), after natural disasters struck their home countries — in some cases nearly two decades ago.
After a meeting between Mr. Kelly and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Mr. Gutierrez said he’s not optimistic on either program.
“This was a wake-up call that Trump, Sessions and Kelly are serious about mass deportation and are anxious to get started,” Mr. Gutierrez said. “It is a call to action for people who oppose mass deportation and turning the documented into undocumented so that they can be deported.”
Mr. Kelly has said he would continue issuing permits under the DACA program, but the legal fight rests with Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Mr. Kelly has also said he’s skeptical of repeated renewals of TPS, which he said were done under previous administrations without the sort of careful review of facts on the ground. He has signaled that those sorts of automatic renewals are a thing of the past.
The newly minted secretary, a former Marine general, has said it’s up to Congress to solve the big issues involved in immigration. He has said that if lawmakers want permanent legal status for Dreamers or long-time TPS recipients, they should pass legislation.
Mr. Gutierrez, though, said Mr. Kelly could choose a middle-ground, announcing — as the Obama administration did — that he won’t target those illegal immigrants for deportation.
“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,” the congressman said.
“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,” Mr. Gutierrez concluded.
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