Is this the end of DACA?
National Security Secretary John Kelly is considering denying Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to hundreds of thousands of immigrants in the United States.
This is what Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez said after meeting with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) behind closed doors with Secretary Kelly last Wednesday.
The questions that the Hispanic representatives had for the secretary were quite obvious: will the DACA (Deferred Action Plan for Hispanic citizens arriving in the country as a child) continue? Will ICE's arrests continue against citizens without a criminal record? Will the Temporary Protected Status be renewed? What will happen to deported veterans?
Following Kelly's responses, Gutierrez believes that we must prepare for the worst: the beginning of a massive deportation.
"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," Gutierrez said in a column published by the National Institute for Latino Policy.
For the congressman, DACA is sentenced to death and with it, the status of hundreds of thousands of Hispanic citizens who have lived legally in the country for many years.
“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,” continued the congressman, urging the community to take action on the issue.
Attendees of the meeting emphasized the decision-making power of the Secretary of Homeland Security, insisting that the future of thousands of people depended on him, but the official simply stated that such decisions were beyond his reach and that it was the work of Congress to change the laws if they did not meet their demands.
According to Gutierrez, “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”, so as to coincide with the president's agenda of deporting millions of people, while pretending not to understand the power he has in the matter.
The DACA program was created in 2012 by President Barack Obama to try to protect young people coming to the United States before they turn 16 years old. Most of these young people, despite having spent their entire lives in the country, continue to be considered undocumented immigrants at risk of being deported.
The program allows those known as "Dreamers" access to a work permit, education and protection before deportation as long as they have no criminal record. According to Gutierrez, about 800,000 people would be protected under the program.
Although President Trump promised during his campaign to eliminate the program, months after his inauguration he assured that the dreamers would have nothing to worry about.
But in June, his administration decided to end the DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents and Lawful Permanent Residents) program, which protected undocumented immigrant parents from US citizen children.
During the same month, Texas attorneys general and nine other Republican states urged Attorney General Jeff Sessions to remove DACA, threatening to take the matter to court, as Telemundo reported.
In the face of these circumstances, Kelly told Hispanic lawmakers that several legal counselors have convinced him that it is unlikely that DACA will survive a court, denying by default the administration's support.
"He did not indicate that they would (defend it). He didn't say that they wouldn't, but he didn't say that they would," said New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez. "So between that and what he says is the legal analysis he's heard, it's not a pretty picture," CNN reported.
Nanette Díaz Barragan, a Democrat from California, said that Caucus members asked Kelly if he would be willing to publicly support the DACA legislation, and that the secretary said he would consider it. Barragán took the opportunity to remind him that on other occasions the administration had supported the preservation of some legislation, insisting that he support the bipartisan legislation known as the Bridge Act, which could preserve the DACA program, but the secretary did not promise anything.
With Kelly washing his hands on the issue and the frustration of the congressmen, everything seems to indicate that it is time for the Hispanic community to organize to defend their rights in face of the worst of scenarios.