Lois Beckett, The Guardian, April 23, 2017
When Donald Trump and his attorney general contradict each other on immigration policy, listen to the president.
That was the answer of the secretary of homeland security, John Kelly, on Sunday, when he was pressed on opposing statements from Trump and the immigration hardliner Jeff Sessions regarding the fate of undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children.
Asked if so-called Dreamers were subject to being deported, Kelly told CNN’s State of the Union: “I’d certainly go with what the president says.”
Sessions, however, was still not willing to agree that Dreamers could “rest easy”, as Donald Trump told reporters on Friday.
“Well, we’ll see,” Sessions said on ABC’s This Week. “I believe that everyone who enters the country unlawfully is subject to being deported.”
“We don’t have the ability to round up everybody, and there’s no plans to do that,” he added.
California’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, said conflicting statements from the president and attorney general left immigrant families and local law enforcement officers confused and afraid.
“It’s not clear what we can trust and what statements we can believe in and that causes a great deal of not just anxiety, but confusion,” he told ABC.
Trump said on Friday that Dreamers, immigrants who came to the US as children and who were given special status under the Obama administration, should “rest easy” and not fear deportation. The administration was “not after the Dreamers, we are after the criminals”, Trump said.
On Wednesday, Sessions suggested the opposite, saying: “Everybody in the country illegally is subject to being deported, so people come here and they stay here a few years and somehow they think they are not subject to being deported – well, they are.” He repeated that position on Sunday.
In February, Juan Manuel Montes, a Dreamer who had thought he was protected under Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (Daca) program, was deported, sparking an outcry and renewed questions about Trump’s approach.
On Sunday, Kelly said Sessions was correct to say that Dreamers “are subject to deportation”, adding: “That’s what the law says. Now what we actually do is another story.
“My organization has not targeted these so-called Dreamers. We have many, many more important criminals to go after.”
In California last month, the chief of the Los Angeles police department said reports of sexual assault had dropped 25% among the Latino population compared with last year, and reports of domestic violence were down 10%, amid fears that reporting attacks to law enforcement officials might result in deportation.
“Imagine a young woman,” Charlie Beck said, “imagine your daughter, your sister, your mother, your friend, not reporting a sexual assault because they are afraid their family will be torn apart.”
Asked about these remarks on Sunday, Kelly said Beck’s concern that Trump’s hardline policies were making people fear to report violent attacks against them was, in fact, a common one. “I hear this a lot,” he said.
But Kelly added that undocumented immigrants who were the victims of a crime had a “duty” to report it and “should feel comfortable doing it”.
“If they’re simply here illegally, and they’re a victim of the crime, they should report that crime,” he said.
Kelly suggested victims could call 911 anonymously. “You can report crimes and not give your names,” he said.
“I would tell the illegal immigrant community: if you are simply here illegally, we don’t really have the time to go after you. We are looking for bad men and women.”