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Sec. Kelly: Congress Gave You Plenty of Discretion on Immigration — So Use It

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Senator Bob Casey Takes on DHS and White House in Vain Attempt to Stop the Deportation of Vulnerable Mom and Child

Yesterday marked yet another heinous and hasty deportation by the Trump Administration. This time, DHS rushed to deport (rather than exercise discretion on immigration for)  a Honduran mother and her five-year-old son, who had fled violence in their home country and were petitioning for protection.

Sen. Bob Casey pleads to stop a deportation

The deportation sparked outrage throughout the nation, led by one brave Senator from Pennsylvania. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) took to Twitter and in a flurry of tweets pleaded that DHS and the White House intervene in case that cried out for justice. Read the entire thread to see how a powerful senator uses his office to fight for the most vulnerable.

Evidently, the mother’s lawyer was about to file paperwork that proved the family faced violence if deported, nonetheless, the mother and child were awakened at3:00 am at the family detention center in Berks, PA and were then rushed onto a plane by DHS. According to her lawyer, so rushed were they that the mother was unable to fully get dressed.

Unfortunately, the heroic efforts of Senator Casey, which resulted in a call with Reince Priebus and the stunning revelation that only the White House could approve the use of discretion, fell short. The family has been returned to Honduras, and their lives are now in jeopardy.

Let’s be clear. In America, where we proudly proclaim ourselves to be a nation of laws in which every person on our soil has a right to petition the government for justice, DHS rushed a woman and her child back to the violence they fled so that she couldn’t do so. In America, where we proudly proclaim our history as a nation of refuge, our government strained to make sure this vulnerable mother and child were denied refuge and deported to conditions that threaten their lives. Is this who we are? Or, is this who we are becoming?

The Trump Administration and discretion on immigration

This and many other such cases raise questions regarding the Trump Administration’s approach to the use of discretion. Long-established in law, policy, regulation and practice, every DHS Director has used discretion. Every law enforcement in the country uses discretion. They set priorities and deploy their resources to target the worst first and bring balancing tests to low-priority cases. But this DHS is mostly unwilling to use discretion. Is that because only the White House can confer it? What about DHS Secretary Kelly? He likes to bad mouth Congress for not updating the laws (although he fails to mention that immigration reform efforts have consistently been blocked by members of his own party), but what’s his policy and posture towards the use of discretion? Does he have to ask the White House for approval? Attorney General Sessions? Why did a mother and child facing violence if returned to Honduras get rushed out of the country rather than given a chance to have their day in court? Will there be any internal review of the case?

Meanwhile, there seems to be a new development on the discretion front. Some high-profile cases have been granted 30 day reprieves:

  • In Connecticut, Luis Barrios, a married father of four U.S.-born children was set to be deported Thursday morning, but was granted a 30-day reprieve after the community and Connecticut Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, CT Representative Rosa DeLauro, and Derby Mayor Anita Dugatto intervened.
  • In Colorado, Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) intervened in the case of Colorado resident Arturo Hernandez. Hernandez was arrested in late April while en route to work. After the community protested and Sen. Bennet introduced a private bill, DHS granted a 30-day delay. According to the Associated Press, “Hernandez’s lawyers plan to use the delay to appeal his case and try to keep him from being returned to Mexico, saying they have identified “missed opportunities” in his family’s nearly 25-year fight to win permanent residency. The delay will also allow him to attend his 17-year-old daughter’s high school graduation.”

Others have not been so fortunate. Maribel Trujillo, an Ohio mother of four U.S. citizen children with no criminal record, was recently deported to Mexico. Trujillo-Diaz received support from the Catholic Church, faith communities around the country, and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and Governor John Kasich (R-OH). DHS dismissed requests for discretionary relief and sent her back to the violent community where her family has been targeted by drug cartels.

Frank Sharry: Deportation of families contrary to American values

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund:

The Trump Administration boasts of going after ‘bad hombres’ even as the evidence mounts that they are targeting deeply-rooted families that are known to the government, comply with check-in requests, and work legally in the U.S. This is not only contrary to who we are as a nation, it is contrary to good law enforcement practices. Is DHS deliberately trying to terrify all 11 million undocumented immigrants and their families? Are they just lazy and lousy as law enforcement agents? Or both?