Kelly sug­gests Dreamer amnesty, im­plores Congress to solve prob­lem

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY STEPHEN DINAN

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion last week floated an amnesty idea for po­ten­tially 1 mil­lion il­le­gal im­mi­grants, look­ing to find per­ma­nent so­lu­tions for some of the most sym­pa­thetic cases in the lon­grun­ning im­mi­gra­tion de­bate.

In two days of tes­ti­mony to Congress, Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary John F. Kelly said he doubts his abil­ity to oust some 250,000 im­mi­grants from Cen­tral Amer­i­can coun­tries who have been in the U.S. for nearly two decades on a tem­po­rary hu­man­i­tar­ian re­lief pro­gram.

He also sig­naled that he would keep pro­tect­ing 780,000 Dream­ers from de­por­ta­tion and hoped Congress would grant them per­ma­nent sta­tus.

“You’ve got to solve this prob­lem,” Mr. Kelly told the House Home­land Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee when mem­bers prod­ded him not to de­port Dream­ers.

He said he would not de­port Dream­ers but warned that the pol­icy could change when some­one else takes over his job, mak­ing the only so­lu­tion con­gres­sional ac­tion. He said there is clear bi­par­ti­san sup­port for some form of per­ma­nent le­gal­iza­tion and urged law­mak­ers to take the op­por­tu­nity that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is giv­ing.

“I’m not go­ing to let the Congress off the hook. You’ve got to solve it,” he said.

If law­mak­ers wait, he warned, a fu­ture sec­re­tary might take a stricter line on Dream­ers and fully can­cel Pres­i­dent Obama’s 2012 amnesty, known in gov­ern­ments­peak as DACA.

Un­der DACA, il­le­gal im­mi­grants who came to the U.S. as chil­dren and who have kept a rel­a­tively clean record, were 30 or younger as of 2012 and who have worked to­ward a high school diploma are granted a re­new­able stay of de­por­ta­tion,

along with a work per­mit en­ti­tling them to hold jobs, get a driver’s li­cense and ob­tain some tax­payer ben­e­fits.

Mr. Kelly also took a hu­man­i­tar­ian view to­ward per­haps 250,000 mi­grants from El Sal­vador, Hon­duras and Nicaragua who have been pro­tected from de­por­ta­tion for nearly two decades un­der tem­po­rary pro­tected sta­tus, a pro­gram de­signed to make sure peo­ple don’t have to go back home to coun­tries suf­fer­ing nat­u­ral dis­as­ters.

The earth­quakes and hur­ri­canes that granted the pro­tected sta­tus are well in the past, but the Bush and Obama ad­min­is­tra­tions re­newed the pro­gram.

All told, peo­ple from some 10 coun­tries are cov­ered by tem­po­rary pro­tected sta­tus. Mr. Kelly re­cently re­newed Haiti’s des­ig­na­tion, stem­ming from the 2010 earth­quake.

The sec­re­tary said he would try to en­cour­age the Haitians to go back even­tu­ally. For the Cen­tral Amer­i­cans, how­ever, “it’s kind of hard” to root them out and send them back.

He sug­gested in­stead that Congress grant them “a way to­ward cit­i­zen­ship.”

The sug­ges­tions are split­ting ad­vo­cacy groups, some of which say they are will­ing to look at pro­pos­als as long as the deal is fair while oth­ers in­sist there is no room for ne­go­ti­a­tion.

Mark Kriko­rian, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Im­mi­gra­tion Stud­ies, which sup­ports stricter lim­its on im­mi­gra­tion, said the key is what kind of deal can be struck.

“Those are the two groups of il­le­gals who have been pro­vi­sion­ally amnestied, but not per­ma­nently so. Turn­ing those pro­vi­sional amnesties into a per­ma­nent one in ex­change for some kind of sig­nif­i­cant en­force­ment mea­sures could make sense,” he said.

He floated the idea of cou­pling a per­ma­nent amnesty for the roughly 1 mil­lion Dream­ers and long­time tem­po­rary pro­tected sta­tus re­cip­i­ents with an end to the Di­ver­sity Visa lot­tery, which gives away 55,000 im­mi­gra­tion slots a year by ran­dom chance, and by im­pos­ing a manda­tory re­quire­ment for all busi­nesses to use E-Ver­ify, the govern­ment’s work-au­tho­riza­tion sys­tem, to make sure their po­ten­tial hires are le­gal.

“If I were a con­gress­man, yeah, I’d prob­a­bly vote for that,” Mr. Kriko­rian said.

The Di­ver­sity Lot­tery has some sup­port­ers but for the most part is viewed as an out-of-date anachro­nism in the im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem — an­other pro­gram that al­lows im­mi­grants to choose the U.S. rather than Amer­i­cans to choose im­mi­grants who meet the coun­try’s needs.

Mean­while, E-Ver­ify has long been on the wish list for en­force­ment ad­vo­cates, who be­lieve that if busi­nesses are forced to vet their em­ploy­ees, then the jobs mag­net for il­le­gal im­mi­grants would dry up.

Ce­sar Var­gas, a Dreamer and ad­vo­cate for im­mi­grant rights, said he would be open to hear­ing about a deal for Dream­ers and didn’t rule out E-Ver­ify, but he added that sup­port­ers would have to prove it would be work­able and wouldn’t pose a ma­jor bur­den on small busi­nesses.

Still, he said the im­mi­gra­tion de­bate has been stalled for so long that he wants to see con­crete pro­pos­als on the ta­ble.

“Start hold­ing hear­ings, start hold­ing dis­cus­sions on those sig­nif­i­cant is­sues,” he urged Wash­ing­ton.

But Greisa Martinez, an ad­vo­cacy di­rec­tor at United We Dream and an­other Dreamer, said Repub­li­cans have put their en­force­ment mea­sures into this year’s spend­ing bill, which al­lo­cated money for more Border Pa­trol agents and de­por­ta­tion of­fi­cers, as well as for sev­eral dozen miles of border bar­rier.

She said there is no deal if Repub­li­cans de­mand more.

“We will not ne­go­ti­ate on some­thing that would add on en­force­ment to some­thing that they’ve been al­ready been able to achieve,” she said.

Matt O’Brien, a former im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cial who is now with the Fed­er­a­tion for Amer­i­can Im­mi­gra­tion Re­form, said he fears Repub­li­cans who run Wash­ing­ton would leap at a deal that would grant a per­ma­nent amnesty to Dream­ers — though he said it would come with po­lit­i­cal peril.

“FAIR’s po­si­tion has al­ways been that we want to see the border se­cured and the rule of law en­forced. Trump made a cam­paign prom­ise that he was go­ing to re­peal DACA, and that’s a prom­ise I think he should keep if he wants to re­tain the sup­port of those who put him in of­fice,” Mr. O’Brien said.

The dan­ger in an amnesty has al­ways been the mes­sage it would send to po­ten­tial mi­grants. The 1986 amnesty, far from solv­ing the prob­lem, paved the path for the cur­rent il­le­gal im­mi­grant pop­u­la­tion, which is es­ti­mated at 11 mil­lion.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has made some head­way in tamp­ing down the flow of border jumpers, but il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion ap­pears to have shifted in­stead to mi­grants who come legally on tem­po­rary visas but don’t leave when their time ex­pires.

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