Homeland Security Secretary Kelly Supports DACA, But Won't Commit to Trump Administration Backing It

WASHINGTON -- Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Wednesday that he personally supports the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but declined to say whether the administration would defend it in court.“Congress is the source of a long-term solution for DACA,” said DHS spokesman David Lapan. Kelly departed the closed meeting without commenting to reporters. “Right now, there’s no plan to rescind or change what we’re doing with DACA.”Caucus members were concerned by his refusal to say if the administration would defend the program.“From his point of view, the attorneys that he’s spoken with both inside the department and outside, most of them felt that DACA as it exists is not legally sustainable,” Lapan said.“I asked the secretary very directly whether the administration would defend DACA and he couldn't give me a conclusive answer,” Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, a CHC member Democrat, told The Dallas Morning News.Castro and other lawmakers said that Kelly mentioned a meeting he had with Attorney General Jeff Sessions about DACA but did not disclose details..“Based on the attorney general’s history legislatively, I expect that he won’t defend DACA,” Castro said.DACA backgroundDACA was created by President Barack Obama in 2012. It gives unauthorized immigrants who came to the country as children a temporary, two-year relief from deportation and allows them to work legally in the country.Nearly 800,000 people have been approved for the program since its implementation, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Per the Migration Policy Institute, there were 271,000 DACA-eligible individuals living in Texas in 2016.Last month, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and a 10-state coalition threatened to sue the federal government over the program if it is not rescinded by September.“We have to prepare for the worst and get ready to fight mass deportation,” Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., said in a statement after the hearing. “(Kelly) 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.”Lapan said he didn’t know if Kelly had urged the president or other members of the administration to go along with his support of DACA. He confirmed but would not comment on Kelly’s meeting with Sessions on DACA.Democrats dissatisfiedSen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., expressed dissatisfaction with the meeting, disagreeing with Kelly’s assessment of DACA as untenable in the courts.“When it went to the Supreme Court, it was a 4-4 tie and therefore nothing was decided, and therefore I’m not sure that that legal view is the prevailing legal view,” Menendez said. “He basically was suggesting that if it can’t be sustained legally, that then there would be a challenge to these individuals.”Members were also shocked when Kelly said he was unaware of any pending legislation codifying DACA, CHC member Rep. Nanette Barragan, D-Calif., said. “There was quite a combination of laughter and appalled shock in the room from everybody, who said ‘we will give you some.’”Lapan confirmed lawmaker accounts that Kelly agreed to consider but did not commit to their requests to publicly support DACA legislation.“We’ve made the case that having a partner would make a big difference in getting our Republican colleagues not just to talk about it but to the table so that we can vote,” CHC chairwoman Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., said.“If this administration wants to protect dreamers, let’s see them do that. They stood with Paul Ryan for Kate’s Law and sanctuary cities (legislation),” she added. “We would like to see them stand with us for protecting dreamers and move that needle.”Barragan said that they hope to arrange and invite Kelly to a press conference before the August recess. The BRIDGE Act, a bill sponsored by Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., that would protect DACA recipients against deportation, already has bipartisan support, she added.  Continue reading...

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