WASHINGTON – A group of 39 Democratic senators asked on Wednesday the interim secretary of Homeland Security, Elaine Duke, not to use personal data provided by undocumented young people known as DREAMers to deport them.
The young foreigners, many of whom were illegally brought to the US as children by their parents, originally supplied personal data to the Department of Homeland Security to obtain Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status.
“The United States government committed to these young people that the information that they provided ... as part of the DACA program would not be used against them or their families for immigration enforcement purposes and people applying for DACA relied on this assurance in submitting applications,” said the senators in a letter sent to Duke.
The lawmakers expressed “concern” over statements made by Duke to the House National Security Committee saying that she could not promise that information gathered for the DACA program would not end up in the hands of immigration authorities, specifically Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is tasked with tracking down and deporting people in this country illegally.
In their letter, the senators asked Duke, who replaced Gen. John Kelly when he was named White House chief of staff, to specify the number of DACA beneficiaries – and to list the particular cases – whose information has been supplied to ICE.
“Are DACA recipients who lose their DACA status considered an enforcement priority simply as a result of being out of status? Has there been any consideration of treating DACA recipients or former recipients as an enforcement priority? If so, please detail any proposed policy and documentation related to such consideration,” the letter added.
The letter is signed by a majority of Democratic senators, including Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Robert Menendez and Catherine Cortez Masto, as well as by three of the Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives.
Those three leaders are Michelle Lujan Grisham, the head of the Hispanic Caucus; Cedric Richmond, the head of the Black Caucus; and Judy Chu, the head of the Asian Caucus.
Near the close of the Barack Obama administration, about 100 Democratic lawmakers and several organizations asked for concrete measures to ensure that then President-elect Donald Trump could not use the DREAMers’ data to facilitate their deportation.
However, the outgoing Homeland Security secretary, Jeh Johnson, limited himself to sending a letter to Trump asking that he fulfill the US government’s commitment to those young people and keep their information private.
About 800,000 young undocumented foreigners have benefitted under DACA since 2012, although that program was recently eliminated by Trump.
The program – implemented by Obama – originally protected those people from deportation and provided them with other benefits but Trump suspended it in early September, although he gave Congress six months to find an alternative to it.