Trump Transition Seeks Info About Undocumented Immigrants

by Esther Yu Hsi Lee –

The nightmare is coming true.

President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team asked the Department of Homeland Security for documents relating to the biographic information of some undocumented immigrants, Reuters reported Tuesday.

The publication’s report found that Trump’s team requested copies of every executive order and directive relating to immigration in December, a request that would likely include a 2012 executive action known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative which granted temporary deportation protection and work authorization.

According to Reuters, the transition team “asked whether federal workers have altered biographic information kept by the department about immigrants out of concern for their civil liberties,” which DHS officials took to mean that Trump’s team wanted to make sure that they didn’t tamper with DACA records.

The transition team also asked the agency for information relating to immigration detention and an aerial surveillance program, named Operation Phalanx, which conservatives accuse the Obama administration of rolling back. That initiative, authorized by President Obama in 2010, was meant to intercept drugs and curb irregular migration along the southern U.S. border. Both the Texas National Guard and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency sent personnel to protect the border between Texas and Mexico, Buzzfeed reported in November.

Undocumented immigrants have reason to worry about the transition team’s request for Obama administration-era directives that have helped to ease their livelihoods. Those directives called on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials to exercise prosecutorial discretion and be lenient towards some undocumented immigrants detained for deportation proceedings. An example included the 2011 “Morton memo” which called on officials to weigh factors like whether that immigrant has been in the country for a long time, whether he was brought to the country as a child, or whether he has a criminal record. Other directives include discretionary options for deportation relief for people who are parents of U.S. citizens or permanent residents; and immigrant relatives of military personnel in two-year increments.

DACA applicants, in particular, have the most to lose once the transition team gets ahold of their information. Applicants must submit biographic information such as home addresses, phone numbers, photos, and even height and weight, which some fear could be used to locate and deport them or their undocumented family members.

Immigrants have been on heightened alert since Trump’s election victory, concerned over the president-elect’s ability to fully act on his harsh anti-immigrant campaign promises. Among some of his most vocal policy plans, Trump has called for the construction of a border barrier that stretches the length of the U.S.-Mexico border; the deportation of upwards of three million “criminal” immigrants on “day one;” the rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive action; and the expansion of immigrant detention.

Because of what the Trump administration could do with the current 741,000 DACA recipient population, more than 50 congressional Democrats have called on Obama to take the unprecedented step to grant pardons to them. The White House has repeatedly denied that request, noting that a pardon could not confer legal status. Meanwhile, a group of bipartisan congressional lawmakers, led by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) have introduced the BRIDGE Act, a bill to protect these immigrants from getting deported.

In December, Trump’s transition team also asked the Energy Department to identify the names of employees who worked on climate talks including, “programs within DOE [that] are essential to meeting the goals of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.”

Reprinted with permission from Think Progress, a branch of The Center for American Progress