Trump administration says deporting DACA recipients isn’t a ‘priority’ for Homeland Security

Kirstjen Nielsen offers cold comfort for DREAMers.

During a Tuesday morning appearance on CBS This Morning, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen suggested the Immigration and Customs Enforcement would not prioritize deporting Dreamers who are in compliance with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, so long as they don’t commit crimes.

“It’s not going to be a priority of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement to prioritize their removal. I’ve said that before. That’s not the policy of DHS,” Nielsen said. “If you are a DACA that’s compliant with your registration, meaning you haven’t committed a crime, you, in fact, are registered, you’re not priority of enforcement for ICE should the program end.”

When asked by CBS’ John Dickerson if this low enforcement DHS policy would continue in perpetuity, Nielsen said it would even without a DACA deal, but with the caveat that, “of course it means you can’t commit a crime and we will enforce the law.”

Punishing non-criminal DACA recipients, however, has seemingly been the unofficial policy of ICE ever since Trump took the preliminary steps to abolish DACA in September of 2017. In the weeks and months following the Trump announcement, there have been a flurry of reports on social media highlighting the deportation threats of DACA recipients, known as Dreamers, some of which include prominent immigrants rights activists.

As recently as Monday, a 39-year-old Detroit landscaper who has lived in the United States since he was ten years old, was deported to Mexico. Jorge Garcia was brought to the country by his undocumented parents from Mexico when he was a child, and has been able to stay in the United States thanks to extensions under the Obama administration. Now, however, Garcia no longer meets the DACA age requirements.

According to CNN, the Garcia family said they pleaded with ICE to extend his time in the hopes that a DACA law without an age limit would be put in place to make him eligible. ICE officials said that because there is no DACA law currently in place, Garcia would have to be deported.

On average, 122 undocumented immigrants lose their DACA protections every day since the Trump administration announced that they would begin to rollback DACA.

Jorge Garcia’s deportation is a casualty of Congress’ inability to come to strike a bipartisan fix for DACA recipients, as well as President Trump’s inability to accept a fix. Trump has said that any deal on DACA has to be accompanied by increased funding for his wall along the United States southern border with Mexico. Additionally, bipartisan immigration reform talks were stymied this weekend after reports that Trump had referred to some Caribbean and African nations as “shithole countries,” a remark that came during a meeting in which the president rejected a preliminary bipartisan deal.