The outgoing homeland security secretary warned against using the personal information of about 750,000 young immigrants who’d signed up for special protections granted to those who were brought illegally to the United States as children.
Democrats reached out to Secretary Jeh Johnson to ask for help, fearing that President-elect Donald Trump could use the personal information the immigrants had supplied to the Obama administration against them. They called for President Barack Obama to consider presidential pardons for those who’d signed up for his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which temporarily shielded them from deportation.
Johnson said in a letter to Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., that the U.S. government had told applicants that their personal information would not be used for immigration enforcement purposes except when it was “independently determined” that the case involved a national security or public safety threat or criminal activity.
“We believe these representations made by the U.S. government, upon which DACA applicants most assuredly relied, must continue to be honored,” Johnson wrote.
Trump’s plans for Obama’s deferred action program are unclear. As a candidate, he vowed to reverse Obama’s executive actions that have shielded hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from deportation, saying “they have to go.” But he has since backed off on the pledge, promising to “work something out.”
“I want Dreamers for our children also,” he told Time magazine last month when he was named the magazine’s person of the year. “We’re going to work something out. On a humanitarian basis it’s a very tough situation. We’re going to work something out that’s going to make people happy and proud. But that’s a very tough situation.”
Johnson did not use Trump’s name in his letter but said he shared the concerns of those members of Congress who worried about the personal information being safeguarded. Johnson said it had been a long-standing practice of the agency to use information submitted by people seeking deferred action or other benefits primarily to adjudicate their requests and not for immigration enforcement purposes.
But Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, said any promises made by the Obama administration related to the program would not apply to Trump.
“Since DACA is illegal to begin with, Obama’s promise that info wouldn’t be used for enforcement doesn’t bind his successors,” he tweeted.
Obama has given no indication that he plans to pardon the group of immigrants. If allowed, it would be the largest presidential pardon given to a group of individuals.