In the first oversight hearing focused on the White House’s decision to unwind deportation protections for Dreamers, a Department of Homeland Security official admitted that President Trump would like to see a pathway to citizenship for certain undocumented immigrants.
The testimony contradicts prior statements by the President about what should be done for individuals previously covered under the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which terminates in fewer than six months.
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Under questioning in the Senate Judiciary Committee from Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), Michael Dougherty, the Assistant Secretary of Border Immigration and Trade Policy, laid out what the administration would like congress to do for DACA recipients.
“Under a rational bill these individuals would be able to become lawful permanent residents with a pathway to citizenship,” Dougherty said.
“So the president believes they should be allowed to stay,” Sen. Kennedy responded.
“The President, yes, would like to work with congress to get a solution,” Dougherty answered. He added that he didn’t have any details on what sort of conditions individuals would have to satisfy before having access to citizenship.
The nickname “Dreamers” refers to undocumented individuals who were brought to the US at a young age, and now work, study, or serve in the military, and haven’t committed any serious crimes.
Polls show that an overwhelming majority of the public supports allowing Dreamers to stay in the US under protections provided by DACA.
When President Trump ended the program in September, he, too, claimed to support the Dreamer community calling on congress to pass a legislative fix to replace DACA. But whether or not the President actually believes in providing Dreamers a pathway to citizenship has been unclear.
According to a CNN report in February, President Trump told a small group of journalists that he would “perhaps” support citizenship for Dreamers.
Following a highly-publicized meeting with the President in September, Democratic leaders Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) claimed that Trump had agreed to support already-existing legislation that grants certain Dreamers a pathway to citizenship.
Talking to reporters in September, however, Trump said citizenship would not be part of a DACA legislative fix.
“We’re not looking at citizenship,” he said. “We’re not looking at amnesty,”
Tuesday’s hearing also featured sharp criticism against Attorney General Jeff Sessions who made several dubious claims last month while announcing the end of DACA, including an assertion that the program put the country at risk of crime violence and terrorism.
“Can you provide this committee with any examples of Dreamers who’ve been involved in terrorist activities,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) asked DOJ Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad Readler.
“You don’t have to give me hundreds, just give me one, one, one!” Leahy said, his voice growing louder.
“I’m not aware of any examples,” Readler responded.
“Neither is the Attorney General when he said that,” Leahy shot back, “I can guarantee that.”