Congressman Raúl Grijalva, and 39 other colleagues, have some questions for the Department of Homeland Security on how sub-agencies, such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection, have been enforcing their apprehension and deportation priority guidelines.
To refresh your memory, on Nov. 20, President Obama issued several immigration actions (temporarily blocked in February by a federal judge
in Texas) that extended three-year work permits and deportation relief for parents of U.S. citizens or legal residents, and eliminated age restrictions for those applying for DACA (Obama's 2012 program for young immigrants brought here as children). That same day, DHS released a memorandum, titled "Policies for the Apprehension, Detention and Removal of Undocumented Immigrants
," where they listed exactly whom would fall under the "priority for removal."
For instance, undocumented people suspected of being involved with terrorism and other "threats to national security," alleged gang members, those convicted of "aggravated felonies," people convicted of three or more misdemeanors, and so on, are priorities for detention and removal. (The Tucson Police Department recently scaled back its SB 1070
enforcement rules to better match the DHS memorandum.)
Also, priorities for detention would be undocumented immigrants with serious physical or mental illness, pregnant women, people "who demonstrate that they are primary caretakers of children or an infirm person, or whose detention is otherwise not in the public interest."
The problem is there are certain cases within ICE that involve people who don't fall under any of those categories. A case close to home: Rosa Robles Loreto
, who's lived in sanctuary at Southside Presbyterian Church for close to nine months now, because ICE refuses to kill her removal order, even though she has no criminal record, is a mother of two, worked and showed ICE proof that she has paid taxes. Note that her two children qualify for the extended DACA, so it doesn't make sense that they'd get to stay but mom gets deported. (Grijalva has visited Robles Loreto several times while at the church.)
There are also women and children who continue to be apprehended, even though they aren't supposed to be a priority, especially if they seek asylum in this countr
So, that's what Grijalva is talking about. Yesterday, he and others sent DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson a letter
requesting the agency follows its November memorandum at all times, not just when it pleases.
From a press release sent by Grijalva's office:
The letter comes after community members, advocates and media reports indicate that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has failed to apply, or inconsistently applies, mandated exceptions within each of these enforcement priorities and, in some cases, even targeted individuals who fall outside the enforcement priorities within DHS’s Policies for the Apprehension, Detention and Removal of Undocumented Immigrants.
“This is about more than ensuring the federal government lives up to the spirit of its directives,” Grijalva said in a statement. “This is about minimizing uncalled-for human suffering and ensuring law enforcement targets the individuals who actually pose a threat to our society—not just those who aspire to join it."
“President Obama did his part to right our broken immigration system in the face of Republican intransigence,” Grijalva continued. “Now the responsibility of proper implementation falls to DHS, and we need to know beyond the shadow of a doubt that harmful practices of the past aren’t continuing today under the guise of new directives. I urge Secretary Johnson to act quickly in providing the assurance to the American people that those who deserve protection from deportation are no longer living with a target on their backs.”