Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly is set to huddle with House Democrats on Friday amid the party’s outcry over the Trump administration’s deportation and other immigration policies.
The DHS chief, a retired Marine general, is widely respected across party lines but is sure to get an earful from the Democrats, who are largely united in their outrage over President Trump’s aggressive enforcement actions and executive orders barring refugees and travelers from certain predominantly Muslim nations.
Last week, in a letter requesting a meeting with Kelly, the Democrats decried the “alarming” positions adopted by the White House and warned broadly that the “criminalization” of immigrants has sent waves of fear through certain communities while saddling local law enforcement with confusing new demands. The travel ban, they added, “flies in the face” of the U.S. tradition of “welcoming people in need and people of all backgrounds,” the Democrats wrote to Kelly.
Spearheaded by Democratic Caucus Chairman Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), the letter was endorsed by more than 140 Democrats.
Trump’s campaign message hinged, from day one, on a nationalist approach that vowed to crack down on anyone living in the country illegally for the sake of American jobs and public safety. And since entering the White House, the president has sought to make good on those promises.
New guidelines adopted by DHS have scrapped President Obama’s late-tenure policy of focusing deportation efforts primarily on violent criminals and those who pose a safety threat. Now, anyone in the country without documents is subject to deportation, including so-called "Dreamers," immigrants brought into the country illegally as children but granted protection under President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has said that Dreamers are not considered high priority for enforcement.
In his speech before Congress earlier this month, Trump portrayed those moves as vital to public safety, inviting the family members of victims of undocumented immigrant criminals to sit with first lady Melania Trump during the speech.
The president has also signed an executive order blocking foreign travelers from six predominantly Muslim nations for 90 days, while barring refugees from all countries for 120 days. The order amended a similar travel ban that was halted by the courts last month.
The moves have been welcomed by most Republicans, who long criticized Obama for being too soft on immigration enforcement and efforts to screen those entering the U.S. from nations known to house terrorist cells.
The Democrats have a markedly different view, warning that the tough enforcement policies will split up families and hurt the economy, while making the country less safe by providing terrorist groups like the Islamic State with new propaganda tools to recruit would-be terrorists.
As the head of Homeland Security, Kelly, who famously clashed with Obama over the fate of Guantanamo Bay, is charged with overseeing many of Trump’s new policies.