Home­land chief de­fends U.S. policy on fam­i­lies

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Joshua Part­low

MEX­ICO CITY» Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary John Kelly on Fri­day de­fended the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s policy of tar­get­ing im­mi­grant fam­i­lies that pay to bring their chil­dren up from Cen­tral Amer­ica, say­ing that the United States is fi­nally “en­forc­ing the law” on il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion in that and other ways.

Dur­ing an in­ter­view at the con­clu­sion of a three­day visit to Mex­ico, Kelly de­scribed the mi­gra­tion flow, which has sent hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple north to the United States in re­cent years, as an “over­whelm­ingly economic” phe­nom­e­non rather than a mat­ter of peo­ple flee­ing vi­o­lence, as many in Cen­tral Amer­ica in­sist.

Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment agents have fo­cused on de­tain­ing and de­port­ing peo­ple with crim­i­nal records, he said, de­spite al­le­ga­tions from the Mex­i­can gov­ern­ment and oth­ers about a wider crack­down. But they have also be­gun ar­rest­ing peo­ple who pay smug­glers to bring their chil­dren or other young rel­a­tives into the coun­try.

“If they do have fam­ily in the United States that then says, ‘We’ll take them and spon­sor them,’ we’re go­ing to look at the fam­ily,” Kelly said of young­sters ap­pre­hended at the bor­der. “If the fam­ily is il­le­gal in the United States and we can make the case, which I think is very easy to make, that they were part of this human-smug­gling process, then they broke the law. And we’ll take the ap­pro­pri­ate mea­sures.”

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ex­ec­u­tive orders and harsh rhetoric on im­mi­gra­tion have alarmed many im­mi­grants and their ad­vo­cates. While de­por­ta­tions are roughly sim­i­lar to lev­els un­der the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, the num­ber of ar­rests of un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants has risen sharply un­der Trump.

Mex­i­can of­fi­cials have grown in­creas­ingly con­cerned about who is be­ing de­ported from the United States and raised that is­sue with Kelly dur­ing his visit. The Mex­i­can gov­ern­ment, through its embassy in Washington, has com­piled a list of de­por­tees who may have been “sub­ject to a vi­o­la­tion of due process” and are look­ing for re­lief from the U.S. gov­ern­ment, said Car­los Sada, a deputy for­eign min­is­ter in charge of North Amer­i­can af­fairs.

“These cases are some­thing where the law has been ap­plied dra­mat­i­cally,” Sada said in an in­ter­view.

Sada said that ICE agents are ap­ply­ing the law more strictly than in the past and that they should use more “flex­i­bil­ity,” par­tic­u­larly in cases of im­mi­grants who have lived for years in the United States, have chil­dren, are not vi­o­lent and do not pose a threat to the coun­try.

Kelly, in the in­ter­view, said that ICE “doesn’t do sweeps, doesn’t do road­blocks, doesn’t do raids into places of em­ploy­ment where they round every­one up and check on them.”

But in the course of an ar­rest, an agent can ask other peo­ple in the vicin­ity about their im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus and de­tain those peo­ple, Kelly said.

“We much pre­fer to do these in jails, but since many jails don’t co­op­er­ate with us, then we have to do this in neigh­bor­hoods,” he said.

The other pop­u­la­tion of de­por­tees, he said, con­sists of peo­ple who have gone through the im­mi­gra­tion court process and been or­dered to leave the coun­try.

“These are court-or­dered de­por­ta­tions,” he said. “I get a lot of calls from mem­bers of Congress on in­di­vid­ual cases. What I say to them is: ‘I’ve got a court order. I can’t ig­nore it.’ “

“I’m go­ing after the peo­ple who have bro­ken U.S. law, in ad­di­tion to be­ing in the United States il­le­gally.”

Kelly said that un­der the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, about 45,000 peo­ple of Mex­i­can de­scent have been de­tained in the United States but that the Mex­i­can gov­ern­ment has called to ques­tion only a “hand­ful” of the cases.

Be­fore Trump’s pri­vate meet­ing with Mex­i­can Pres­i­dent En­rique Peña Ni­eto at the Group of 20 sum­mit Fri­day in Hamburg, Ger­many, Trump told re­porters that he “ab­so­lutely” still wants Mex­ico to pay for his pro­posed bor­der wall. Kelly said that in his dis­cus­sions with Mex­i­can of­fi­cials since Wed­nes­day, “we didn’t once talk about the wall.”

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