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On Heels of Trump Budget Release, Three Questions for DHS Secretary John Kelly at House and Senate Hearings

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This Wednesday and Thursday, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly will testify before House and Senate appropriations subcommittees about the Trump Administration’s Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Request for DHS. On immigration, the Trump budget seeks billions of dollars to expand its mass deportation force and policy, including:

Said Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice Education Fund:

Every dollar given to this Administration to enforce immigration laws is a dollar misspent. It’s money spent deporting as many people as possible, separating families, causing fear and pain in our communities, undermining local law enforcement, and expanding Trump’s Deportation Force without oversight or accountability. As U.S. taxpayers, this is our money, and we should have a say in how it is spent. Congress must not give Trump the money he wants to further implement his policy of mass deportation.

Questions for DHS Secretary Kelly

This week, DHS Secretary Kelly will appear on Capitol Hill to try to sell lawmakers on the President’s budget request.  Here are three questions we think he should have to answer:

1. Getting Past ICE Spin on “Criminality” – Will ICE Release the Full Statistical Breakdown of its Arrests? ICE recently released statistics on immigration enforcement during Trump’s first 100 days, claiming that nearly 75% of immigrants arrested were convicted criminals. However, the ICE spin around its statistics merit a healthy dose of skepticism and starts to fall apart upon closer scrutiny. For example, only 6.5% (2,700 out of 41,300) of those arrested had convictions for violent crimes and the fastest growing category of arrests were immigrants with no convictions. We suspect that the vast majority of those arrested by ICE and defined as “convicted criminals” are people who are nothing close to being a public safety threat and at most have traffic and immigration-related violations on their record. However, ICE refuses to release the full set of statistics about its enforcement operations. Secretary Kelly should come clean and release the full dataset so we all can determine what percentage of convictions were for infractions related to simply being undocumented, such as driving without a license or re-entering the country to join family, and which were related to actual public safety concerns.

2. Why is ICE Relying on “Silent Raids” to Target Immigrants Checking in with ICE? The Trump Administration has been running up its deportation numbers by targeting the undocumented immigrants who are easiest to find – those who have been checking in with ICE regularly for years under an exercise of prosecutorial discretion. Instead of checking to see that nothing has changed and sending them back out to live their lives – as has happened for years – these “silent raids” lead to the individual being detained and deported. Ironically, this strategy punishes people who are trying to do what the government has asked of them. Typically, they have been living in the country for a decade or more, have U.S. citizen children, and have nothing on their record that even remotely suggests they are dangerous. DHS Secretary Kelly should admit that his much-touted focus on deporting ‘criminals’ is actually a quiet focus on deporting settled immigrants. Secretary Kelly also should be asked to justify how this enforcement focus benefits public safety or the country – clearly it does the opposite.

3. Why Should We Hire More ICE and Border Patrol Agents When the Current Agencies Are Unaccountable and Out of Control? Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are two of the worst law enforcement agencies in the nation. Instead of jumping to answer Trump’s call for a mass Deportation Force byrelaxing hiring standards and ramping up hires, DHS Secretary Kelly and Congress should be working to get these agencies in order.  For recent examples of ICE and Border Patrol abuse, see the America’s Voice website here.

As Tramonte concluded:

Many had hoped that General Kelly would be a rare voice of reason within the Trump Administration.  Instead, he has turned out to be a ‘yes man,’ going along with and excusing every radical policy change and inhumane action taken by either the White House or Kelly’s deportation henchmen. It’s time for him to come clean and admit to the American people that his agencies are using ‘silent raids’ to deport as many people as possible, no matter how long they have lived here or how strong their ties. Despite ICE spin, the facts are that most people being deported are not dangers to the public, they are ordinary folks who have been building their lives here and contributing. And the agencies that make up Trump’s Deportation Force are unaccountable, unprofessional, and abusive. Instead of expanding their ranks, they need oversight and reform.