On Tuesday, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the nomination of General John Kelly to head the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In anticipation of tomorrow’s hearing, here are three key questions for General Kelly to answer regarding important policies that fall under the purview of DHS.
We expect Democrats to ask – and General Kelly to answer – these important immigration questions:
Will you counsel President Trump to keep the DACA program for Dreamers in place? The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is an unqualified success, helping to drive economic growth, bolster job creation, keep families together, promote education and community integration, and strengthen civic ties throughout the country. As a recent economic analysis from the Center for American Progress found, “ending DACA would wipe away at least $433.4 billion from the U.S. gross domestic product” over the next decade. Yet the economic studies are not as powerful as the personal testimonials from Dreamers who have been busy highlighting how DACA has transformed their lives and futures and benefited the nation they call home. As one example, click through this New York Times collection of Dreamers’ stories for a reminder of how DACA has transformed lives and why it should remain intact in the next administration. Said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund: “We need to know where General Kelly stands on preserving the ability for these talented aspiring Americans to continue working and living in the country they call home.”
Will you protect Central American refugees or deport them back to violence? Currently, the majority of people coming to the U.S./Mexico border are not Mexicans looking for work, but Central Americans fleeing violence in the northern triangle countries. Gen. Kelly seems to recognize the role of push factors, and not just pull factors, in driving migration, as he oversaw the $1B program for improving conditions in Central America. But there is much more to do to stabilize these countries so that it is safe for people to remain. The Obama Administration has struggled to recognize that many of the children and families fleeing to our borders are true refugees deserving of asylum under U.S. and international law, and treat them as such. “Will General Kelly do better, protecting vulnerable Central American refugees requesting asylum at our borders rather than jailing them and deporting them? Will he continue to address the underlying causes of this humanitarian crisis so that Central Americans can live safely in their home countries once again? We are eager to hear how he would address this situation,” said Sharry.
Will you keep the common-sense DHS priorities memo in place to guide deportation decisions, or will you throw it out the window and go back to indiscriminate deportations? The November 2014 memo from current DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson outlined a balancing test for weighing deportation decisions and a set of priorities that put people who pose a security risk over deportation of ordinary working immigrants. As Secretary Johnson explained during a CNN appearance, “We’re focused on deporting convicted criminals, threats to public safety, threats to border security, and there’s a population of people who’ve been in this country for years, who are not priorities.” President-elect Trump has said he will prioritize criminals, yet the broad number of people he’s discussed deporting goes well beyond any definition of who could be considered a criminal. Sharry wants to know: “General Kelly, do you support the deportation memo from DHS that currently puts security threats ahead of ordinary immigrants, or do you want to go back to the approach that focuses on deporting as many people as possible, no matter their character, length of time in the U.S., family ties, and other positive factors?”