A group of 39 US Senators on Tuesday urged interim Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Elaine Duke not to use the personal data of undocumented youths known as “Dreamers” to deport them.
“The US government committed to these young people that the information they provide would not be used against them or against their families … and the people who applied for the DACA program relied on this” assurance when they applied for the program, the senators pointed out in a letter addressed to Duke.
The 39 lawmakers are concerned over Duke’s statements to the House Homeland Security committee, where she said she could not promise that the information in the DACA database would not end up in the hands of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) authorities.
In the letter, senators petitioned the interim secretary, who replaced General John Kelly when he was appointed chief of staff of the White House, detailing the number and cases of DACA beneficiaries whose information has now ended up in hands of ICE.
“As a result of the Administration’s decision to terminate DACA, hundreds of thousands of people who entrusted the U.S. Government with a great deal of detailed personal information about them and their families live in fear,” they wrote.
The letter is signed by Democratic senators, including Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Robert Menendez and Catherine Cortez Masto, as well as three House Democratic leaders: Michelle Lujan Grisham, leader of the Hispanic Caucus; Cedric Richmond, leader of the Black Caucus, and Judy Chu, leader of the Asian Caucus.
Data from “dreamers” was a thorny issue in the last days of the administration of former President Barack Obama, as nearly a hundred Democratic congressmen and some organizations called for concrete action to prevent President-elect Donald Trump from using the data for deportation purposes.
However, outgoing National Security Secretary Jeh Johnson simply asked Trump to “comply” with the U.S. Government’s commitment to these young people and to maintain that discretion.
About 700,000 undocumented youth have joined the DACA program since 2012. Trump has signaled that he is going to end the program, which granted deportation relief and work permits to undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children and who meet other eligibility requirements.
Trump suspended the program in early September, but gave Congress six months to find an alternative.
The White House is now negotiating with Democratic leaders to pass a law that will give new “dreamers” legal cover in exchange for possibly including funding for hiring more immigration agents.