Secretary John Kelly, in his short tenure as chief of the Department of Homeland Security, has said a lot of misinformed things about immigration and deportation. He’s repeatedly claimed that his agents only focus on deporting immigrants who have committed crimes, a statement which unfortunately is proven untrue every day.
Today, while testifying about budget priorities before the House Judiciary Committee, Kelly again made this false claim, adding that when ICE picks up immigrants who have committed no crimes and do not have a prior deportation order, “they’re out [released] in an hour or so.”
The part of Kelly’s comment about prior deportation orders is important, because immigration judges don’t have the final say in who gets deported. Secretary Kelly and the Administration do. Yet time and time again, Kelly has refused to recognize that part of his job involves exercising discretion on immigration cases — and allowing immigrants to stay when their stories don’t merit deportation.
But the last part of Kelly’s assertion — that immigrants without criminal records or deportation orders are released shortly — is false as well. How would Kelly explain:
- Daniel Ramirez Medina, the Dreamer with active DACA status who was picked up when his father was arrested, then held for more than a month because ICE kept trying to claim he was a gang member when he wasn’t.
- Daniela Vargas, another Dreamer who had no criminal record, who was detained for more than two weeks after ICE picked her up because she spoke out about her case
- Ariel Vences-Lopez, who is now facing deportation after a Minnesota transit officer asked for his immigration status. Ariel was brought in front of an immigration judge after he was detained, but by Kelly’s statement ICE should’ve let Ariel go as soon as they picked him up and realized he had not committed any serious crimes.
- In San Diego, four children were left to fend for themselves as both parents were detained and are facing deportation. Francisco Duarte and Rosenda Perez are longtime San Diego residents with no criminal records, no criminal charges, and no apparent deportation orders. Their 19-year-old son is having to take care of their other children, a 17-year-old and a pair of 12-year-old twins.
- In Los Angeles, 22-year-old immigration activist Claudia Rueda remains detained, some say in retaliation for protesting the arrest of her mother (who was a bystander in an April raid who was released on bail).
- In New Hampshire, a church usher was detained after not having the correct fishing license, and remains in deportation proceedings even though his wife is a US citizen who was due to give birth shortly after he was detained.
Once again, it’s clear that Kelly either doesn’t know what he’s talking about, or is willfully misleading members of Congress and the public every time he speaks about deportations.