Editor’s Note: Illinois Congressman Luis V. Gutiérrez delivered the following remarks on the Floor to the House Speaker on July 17th, regarding the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ meeting with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly on July 12th that Gutiérrez says was “our call to action” to fight mass deportation.
Last week, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly met with Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
We asked him about veterans who are being deported. We asked him why American citizens were increasingly having their families broken up by deportation. We asked about the 800,000 young people who signed up for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and the hundreds of thousands of long-term residents of the U.S. who have Temporary Protected Status or TPS. And he really had no answers.
We know he is on board with Trump’s agenda to deport millions and millions of people or he would not have been appointed to his position.
When it comes to DREAMers, I want to make absolutely clear to everyone today, he is going to end that program and he is going to begin that process this September.
But honestly, he seemed not to understand what his own agency does, the statutory powers he has as Secretary of Homeland Security under current law, or, for that matter, how Congress works.
Let me offer some examples. Number 1, Francisca Lino lives in Chicago and her husband and children are U.S. citizens. For nearly a decade she stayed out of trouble and reported every year to immigration authorities.
Now, people who work for the Secretary decided she must leave the country, leave her kids, her husband, and that she has to go in August.
Why? What changed?
The same goes for Jesus Lara in Ohio. He has 4 American kids who will live their entire lives here, but their family is being broken up by their own government.
According to the Secretary, the courts are deporting them, not him or his agency. He denied responsibility and said he can’t do anything about it.
But we all know the Secretary of Homeland Security has extraordinary powers to spare families from deportation, especially when doing so would not be in our national interest.
I told him he could pick up the phone and stop Ms. Lino’s and Mr. Lara’s deportations and spare the American citizens in their families from hardship and cruelty.
But he is hiding behind the old “it’s out of my hands” bureaucratic dodge, the old “I’m just following orders” defense. But General, that is completely invalid because we know you have the power to do the right thing.
On TPS – a program that currently allows hundreds of thousands of people to live and work here legally- the Secretary has almost unilateral power to extend TPS.
But the Secretary was like, well, I don’t know what I’m gonna do about TPS when I have to decide. What kind of an answer is that?
To me this means that hundreds of thousands of people’s lives – lives that have been built in the United States – are about to be turned upside down. He wants to take hundreds of thousands of documented immigrants, make them undocumented, and then go after them and their families. How does that possibly make América great?
And then there is DACA, the program where 800,000 children and young adults came forward and registered with the government, went through a background check, and were rechecked periodically.
Now Secretary Kelly says he thinks DACA is illegal and once again, that it is out of his hands and up to Attorney General Jeff Sessions – only America’s number 1 opponent of immigration; Any immigration.
So, to me, this was our call to action. The way we rose up to support women and Planned Parenthood, we have to do that again and again.
The way lawyers and patriotic Americans stood at airports to protect refugees and religious freedom, well, now, DREAMers, DACA, TPS and families like the Lara’s and the Lino’s are in the crosshairs and let me tell you something…
We are going to have to organize, mobilize and stand with our allies to protect families, to protect American citizens in those families, and to defend communities, because these guys are serious.
They want to deport millions of people and they are coming after the DREAMers and those with deep ties and long-term lives in the US.
This is our call to action. We must resist. We must rise up and stand up for American values!
And whether the President, the Secretary or the Attorney General like it or not, we need to make it clear that immigrants and immigration are here to stay.
Listen, last May the secretary of homeland security sent an edict, he has told the Haitians, over 55 thousand of them, you have 6 month, get your paperwork ready you’re leaving the country.
Then he is going to come after hundreds of thousands of Central Americans that are here legally in this country, have been here ten, fifteen, twenty years; he is also telling them get your affairs in order you are going to be deported from the United States, I am eliminating your legal status.
And when it comes to DREAMers, I want to make absolutely clear to everyone today, he is going to end that program and he is going to begin that process this September.
He says oh, I like them, they are nice people, but there is nothing I can do, I am going to talk to my buddy Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Jeff Sessions has never liked the program since he was a U.S. Senator and now he is the Attorney General.
They will eliminate the program putting 800,000 people in the crosshairs of deportation. We have the moment to rise up.
Rep. Gutiérrez is in his 13th term representing the Fourth District of Illinois. He is a Member of the Judiciary Committee and is the Chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.