Controversial Deportation Program Heading for an Overhaul
Congress continues to stall over immigration reform, but the controversial Secure Communities program will and should be overhauled, according to Jeh Johnson, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
The House of Representatives continues to stall over immigration reform, but the Obama administration is working on yet another measure to overhaul our immigration system without a bill from Congress. As The Washington Post's Josh Hicks reports, comments made by secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson during his appearance on PBS Newshouron Thursday night offer the latest indication that President Barack Obama is trying push through at least some immigration reform during his remaining two years in office.
Under Secure Communities, which began in 2008 at the end of the George W. Bush administration, local law enforcement and federal agencies work together to identify and flag undocumented immigrants — or “criminal aliens,” to use the government’s terminology — for priority removal. These are usually people who are arrested and in jail for minor infractions, other than the fact that they’re in the country illegally. The FBI sends fingerprints to the Department of Homeland Security to check if a suspect is illegally in the United States, and from there it's determined whether or not they should be deported. Johnson told Newshour's Judy Woodruff, “In my judgment Secure Communities should be an efficient to work with state and local law enforce to reach removal priorities that we have,” but that an overhaul was still necessary, although it's not currently clear what the exact changes will be.
Last week, the departments of Homeland Security and Commerce announced two proposals to help retain more highly-skilled immigrants. The proposals — one would allow the spouses of H1-B visa holders to work, and the other would provide more ways to documents the expert ability of immigrant researchers and professors — do not require congressional approval.
Considering the news today the immigration reform will likely not happen any time soon, this is a sliver of good news for immigration reform advocates who have rallied against Secure Communities and its stream of deportations. Johnson did manage to artfully deflect a question on the possibility of an expanded Deferred Action Program to include the parents of children who were brought to the United States illegally as children. That initiative, he said, was still undergoing review.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.