Last week, Elaine Duke, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) seemingly ignored the directions of the president’s chief of staff (who also happens to be her predecessor at the helm of DHS), and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s assessment of conditions in Honduras, El Salvador, and Haiti, and opted to maintain Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for citizens of those nations.
Duke went even further, by urging that “Congress…enact a permanent solution to this inherently temporary program,” even though the administration she serves (albeit in a temporary capacity) seems to be of the view that TPS should be just that: temporary.
The confusion continued later in the week during the confirmation hearing for Duke’s permanent replacement, Kirstjen Nielsen. Although the president who nominated her has issued a list of public interest reforms he expects in return for providing permanent status for illegal aliens now protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Nielsen seemingly contradicted the message coming out of the White House. Responding to a question about whether we should have a legislative amnesty for DACA beneficiaries, Nielsen replied, “We must and we owe it to them.”
Of course, we don’t “owe it to them.”
DACA recipients are in this situation because their parents chose to knowingly break the law, not because of anything we did to them. We may choose to be generous to them, but it is not a debt. In fact, it is the American people who are owed by Congress. They are owed an enforceable border, effective interior and workplace enforcement, and a merit-based legal immigration system. And, if she is confirmed, it will be Ms. Nielsen’s job to deliver on the perimeter and interior enforcement that the government owes to the American people.
The American people also deserve clarity from the administration. It is up to the White House to enunciate clear and consistent policies and to hold the people Trump appoints accountable for carrying them out.
Dan Stein is the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.