Homeland Security chief says DACA recipients won't be deportation priority

By Sara Shayanian  |  Updated Jan. 16, 2018 at 4:14 PM
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Jan. 16 (UPI) -- Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said immigrants protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program won't be a priority for deportation.

Nielsen told CBS News on Tuesday that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will not prioritize deporting the nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants who received protections under DACA.

"If you are a DACA that's compliant with your registration, meaning you haven't committed a crime, and you in fact are registered, you're not priority of enforcement for ICE should the program end," she said.

That policy would be contingent on Congress' failure to approve legislation protecting beneficiaries of the Obama-era program that has helped undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children obtain work and schooling. President Donald Trump announced last year that DACA would terminate in March if Congress does not come up with an agreeable alternative to the program.

Nielsen, while testifying under oath to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday morning, was asked if she supported a path to citizenship for recipients of the DACA program.

"I think we have to find a permanent solution," she said.

Nielsen elaborated on her statement by saying, "I believe that is part of the discussion and to make sure that we don't continue temporary populations that continue to exist we should talk about that. I'm not here to get in front of the President or any final decisions on that particular issue, but, yes, I'm happy to discuss it."

While testifying Tuesday, Nielsen also claimed she did not hear Trump use the word 'shithole' to describe African nations in an immigration meeting last week.

"I did not hear that word used -- no, sir," Nielsen said.

But Nielsen said the president used "tough language."

"The conversation was very impassioned," the homeland security secretary said. "I don't dispute the president using tough language. Others in the room were also using tough language."

"The president used tough language in general, as did other congressmen in the room."

Trump faced backlash after he was reported criticizing why immigrants, including those from countries like Haiti and African nations, were coming to the United States.

"Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?" Trump purportedly said.

The president was reported asking why people from Norway weren't coming to the United States -- a remark Nielsen addressed during questioning.

When asked if Norway was predominantly white, Nielsen said "I actually do not know that, sir, but I imagine that is the case."

Two lawmakers, Sens. David Perdue, R-Ga., and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., both denied hearing Trump use the profanity.

However, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., has claimed that Trump did use vulgar language to refer to Haiti and other countries, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has called reports of the president's comments "basically accurate."

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