April 05, 2017

Sen. Harris Presses DHS Sec. Kelly About Immigration Enforcement Policy Priorities and Department Contradictions

VIDEO of Senator Harris' Q&A with Secretary Kelly

WASHINGTON, D.C. - At a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris asked Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly about the department's immigration enforcement policy priorities, including an Associated Press report that victims and witnesses of crimes can be arrested by ICE agents at courthouses and if women and children would be separated at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Seeking a commitment that the department will not separate children from their mothers, Harris requested of Kelly, "Are you willing to issue a written directive to your staff that that's the policy of the department?" Kelly refused to do so.

Harris also requested of Secretary Kelly, "Are you willing to initiate a policy that says that if that person who is a victim or a witness to a crime, who is at a courthouse in any county in the United States appearing as a victim or witness to a crime, that if they do not have a serious criminal background, that they would be exempt from a policy of picking them up at that courthouse?" Kelly indicated he would not.

At the hearing, Secretary Kelly disputed the testimony of DHS Deputy Secretary Elaine Duke on the issue of immigration enforcement. At her confirmation hearing, Duke testified that the list of seven categories of persons who can be detained, including even those even suspected of posing any kind of risk regardless of proof, were listed in descending order of priority. However, when asked to confirm those priorities, Kelly disputed Duke's testimony stating, "[T]hey're not in descending order. Those are the categories."

Below is the exchange in question between Harris and Duke during the March 8 hearing:

HARRIS: You have said many times including at least three times in this hearing that you have limited resources, we all do, and so we have to make priorities and triage in many situations. So will you tell me please of these seven categories, which you believe to be the most important with your limited resources?

DUKE: The most important is the people that have been criminal, it's subcategory one.

HARRIS: Ok, and where do you put in this hierarchy the third one, those who have committed acts which constitute but obviously there has been no legal action, where would you put that in your list of priorities?

DUKE: I believe these are, if you will, loosely in descending order. I think the main effect of that memorandum is to not exempt any categories that currently are under the current law passed by congress.

HARRIS: So it is your opinion that these are listed in descending order of priority?

DUKE: Yes.

This policy shift is reflected in a growing number of cases in California and across the country of individuals with little to no criminal history, and deep roots in their communities, being apprehended and detained by ICE. The Administration's enforcement strategy appears to echo President Trump's commitment during the campaign to create a mass deportation force.

Video of Senator Harris' Q&A with Kelly at the hearing is available here, and more information about the hearing is available here.