AP NEWS

1-6 FRI DACA LETTER::2

January 6, 2017

BY DANYA PEREZ-HERNANDEZ | STAFF WRITER

McALLEN— United States Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has joined hundreds of members of Congress in their push to protect thousands of young undocumented immigrants’ information from being used for removal purposes.

Johnson sent a letter to 111 Congress members last week stating he shared their concerns of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals— DACA— information being used for purposes other than adjudicating the request.

Since the introduction of DACA in 2012 about 750,000 young immigrants who were brought in to the country as children, qualified for a two-year permit to reside in the country legally and work.

But with constant rhetoric from President-Elect Donald Trump of doing away with the programs and deport thousands of undocumented immigrants, DACA enrollees have expressed fear of their personal information being used to target them and their families for deportation.

The 111 members of Congress— which included Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, and Rubén Hinojosa, D-McAllen— sent a letter to President Barack Obama on Dec. 5, urging him to prevent the use of this information for any purpose other than its original intent.

“These children and young adults submitted to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) numerous sources of information to verify identity, including fingerprints and other biometric data,” the letter states. “Now many of those same Dreamers are wondering whether their trust was misplaced, fearing for their future in the United States, and questioning whether they can or should seek protection under DACA.”

This was followed by a second letter sent on Dec. 7, signed by 64 democratic representatives advocating for the same protection.

Johnson replied to the initial letter on Dec. 30, stating it is crucial to safeguard this information and upkeep DHS’ consistent message of not using this information for immigration enforcement purposes unless a particular case constituted threat to national or public safety, fraud, criminal activity, or other limited reasons.

“The U.S. government represented to applicants that the personal information they provided will not later be used for immigration enforcement purposes,” Johnson wrote. “We believe these representations made by the U.S. government, upon which DACA applicants most assuredly relied, must continue to be honored.”

Not using information from people seeking deferred action or similar benefits for any other purpose than determining their qualification has been a consistent practice of DHS even before DACA was implemented, he stated, citing as example information collected from victims of human trafficking, foreign students affected by Hurricane Katrina or battered immigrants under the Violence Against Women Act.

The DACA program has been an avenue through which Dreamers have been able to complete their education, open businesses and contribute to their communities as professionals, Johnson wrote.

“We continue to benefit as a country from the contributions of those young people who have come forward and want nothing more than to contribute to our country and to our shared future,” he stated.

Congressman Vela said he agrees with Johnson’s reaction of the need to protect this information, adding he will do what he can to protect it.

“The DACA program has given hope to many Dreamers and allowed them to complete their education and engage more fully in our communities,” Vela wrote in a statement. “I will do everything in my power to protect Dreamers from the incoming Administration’s plots to rip families apart.”

dperez-hernandez@themonitor.com