Homeland Security chief says Dreamers should rest easy.
Ferreting out ‘worst’ residents is top priority
Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly said Sunday that anyone in the country illegally is subject to deportation by law but that so-called “Dreamers” should rest easy and that undocumented residents should still report domestic violence and other crimes.
Mr. Kelly said President Trump tasked him with two key objectives on immigration — secure the Southwest border and root out the “worst” of those who reside in the U.S. unlawfully and deport them.
He said that means they aren’t interested in chasing down so-called “Dreamers” shielded by President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
“If you are simply here illegally, we don’t really have the time to go after you,” Mr. Kelly told CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Mr. Kelly was trying to address somewhat mixed messages on who is at risk for deportation, as Mr. Trump cracks down on illegal immigrants but suggests Dreamers needn’t worry much.
Those get-tough policies were tested in recent weeks, after 23-year-old Juan Manuel Montes, who was granted the amnesty, was deported to Mexico in February.
Immigrant rights groups and Democrats rallied to his cause, but Mr. Kelly has said Mr. Montes gave up his right to be part of the program through “illegal actions.”
Mr. Kelly also said illegal immigrants should still report local offenses, after law enforcement said they feared a drop in reported crimes from certain communities was the direct result of Mr. Trump’s immigration policies.
“They should report that crime,” Mr. Kelly said, also noting they can usually do so anonymously.
Sen. Richard Durbin, Illinois Democrat, said if Mr. Trump really wants to protect people, he should stop targeting sanctuary cities that refuse to alert federal officials of illegal immigrants in their custody, so that undocumented residents can come forward freely when crimes occur.
Mr. Trump should ask local police officials, “point blank, what is the most important thing we can do to maintain law and order?” Mr. Durbin told CNN.
Mr. Durbin also warned Mr. Trump not to insist on funding to pay for his border wall with Mexico in a stopgap funding bill that must be passed by Friday, saying it amounted to a “poison pill” that could lead to a government shutdown.
“Don’t you remember? He said the Mexicans were going to pay for it,” Mr. Durbin said.
Yet Mr. Kelly gave no indication that Mr. Trump planned to back off the demand.
“I think it goes without saying that the president has been pretty straightforward about his desire and the need for a border wall,” Mr. Kelly said. “So I would suspect, he’ll do the right thing for sure, but I would suspect he will be insistent on the funding.”