By Attorney Lorella T. Hess
The U.S. Senate’s Government Affairs Committee held confirmation hearings this week for Gen. John Kelly, President-elect Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is a DHS Agency, so, if confirmed, Gen. Kelly would be in charge of setting immigration enforcement priorities. On January 10, California Sen. Kamala Harris pressed Gen. Kelly for information about the future of DACA, the program offering temporary relief from the threat of removal for qualified applicants who arrived in the U.S. as children.
Sen. Harris advised Gen. Kelly that DACA registrants and their families are frightened about whether or how the DACA program will continue under the Trump administration, and about whether or how personal information about DACA registrants and their families might be used by law enforcement. She also stressed the rigorous requirements that must be met by those registering for the DACA program, as well as the importance to state and local law enforcement agencies of cooperation from immigrant communities.
Gen. Kelly said he has not yet been involved in discussions about immigration policies of the new administration, but offered his opinion that law-abiding individuals such as DACA registrants “might not be the highest priority for removal,” given the government’s limited enforcement resources.
Gen. Kelly also promised to “keep a very open mind” regarding the future of DACA and the use of information from DACA applications, and to “follow the law.”
These remarks by Gen. Kelly cannot be read as a commitment to take any particular action with respect to DACA, and therefore we continue to advise our DACA-eligible clients that new DACA applications should not be submitted at this time.
The entire exchange between Sen. Harris and Gen. Kelly can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FGzmeGO1-A