John Kelly Appointment as White House Chief of Staff a “Disaster” for Immigrants

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Donald Trump with John Kelly.

On Friday, on his way back to Washington after his incoherent speech in Brentwood, President Trump Tweeted that Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly had replaced Reince Priebus as Chief of Staff at the White House. Kelly has been remourseless in his attacks on immigrants as head of Homeland Security and writer Julianne Hing of The Nation says that his promotion is “a disaster for immigrants.”

Trump Tweeted on Friday “John has done a spectacular job at Homeland Security,” and, “He has been a true star of my Administration.” Hing writes:

Indeed, in the last six months, Kelly has turned the DHS into one of the most productive arms of the Trump administration. Kelly managed to translate much of Trump’s brazen anti-immigrant campaign rhetoric into actual policy. And if the numbers are any indication, Kelly has certainly flourished. Arrests since Trump took office in February increased by 40 percent over the prior year. But perhaps more important than the numbers is Kelly’s impact on immigrant communities, where apprehension and fear now reign.

Julianne Hing gives five examples of where Kelly changed things for the worse for immigrants:

1) Ending prosecutorial discretion for undocumented immigrants.

In a sweeping February memo, Kelly did away with the Obama-era policy of prioritizing the deportation of those who’d been convicted of serious crimes. On paper (if not always in practice), the Obama administration directed immigration agents to focus their energy on those who’d been convicted of serious crimes and to largely leave alone those who’d been convicted of no crimes. In February, Kelly wrote: “Unless otherwise directed, Department personnel may initiate enforcement actions against removable aliens encountered during the performance of their official duties.” Translation: Every undocumented and deportable immigrant would now be fair game…

2) Redefining who a “criminal alien” is.

In those same February memos, Kelly also expanded the notion of a “criminal alien.” Now a “removable alien” is anyone who has been convicted of a crime, been charged with a crime, or even committed anything that might be a “chargeable criminal offense” (jaywalking, anyone?). Immigrants who committed any kind of fraud (like using a fake Social Security number) or abused any public benefit would also be a priority for deportation, alongside anyone who had an order of removal that they’d ignored. But perhaps most stunning, Kelly directed the department to pursue anyone who, “in the judgment of an immigration officer,” posed a national-security risk to the country. In other words, any and every immigrant could be targeted by an immigration official…

3) Calling for the revival of 287(g).

Most interior immigration-law enforcement—that is, enforcement that happens away from the border—depends on the cooperation of local law-enforcement agencies. There simply are not enough federal resources to pursue every undocumented immigrant that the Trump administration would like to pursue. In order to accomplish Trump’s goals, Kelly called for a return to old programs, like 287(g), which deputizes local and state police officers to actl alien.” Now a “removable alien” is anyone who has been convicted of a crime, been charged  as immigration agents…

4) Ending DAPA.

DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents) refers to a never-implemented program from the Obama years which would have offered the parents of undocumented DREAMer youth and green-card holders short-term protection from deportation. Last month, Kelly formally dismantled the program…

5) Weighing the expanded use of expedited removal.

This month, a leaked DHS memo revived an idea which was originally tucked into Kelly’s original February memos. The memo called for expanding the use of expedited removal, which is the practice of bypassing immigration courts and summarily shoving people out of the country. As of 2004, its use was limited to those who were apprehended within 100 miles of the US-Mexico border and who couldn’t prove that they’d been in the country for more than two weeks.


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