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The Journal Gazette

  • Kelly

Wednesday, April 19, 2017 1:00 am

Congress told to change laws or 'shut up'

Associated Press

First DREAMer set for deportation

SAN DIEGO – A man has been sent to Mexico in what an advocacy group says could be the first known deportation of someone who was part of a program to shield people who came to the U.S. as young children.

The National Immigration Law Center sued the federal government Tuesday in San Diego to obtain records on Juan Manuel Montes, who was detained by the Border Patrol in February in the California border town of Calexico.

Crackdown on brutal gang vowed

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration vowed Tuesday to crack down on MS-13, a notoriously brutal Central American street gang blamed for a recent series of killings in suburban New York, and accused Obama-era border policies of allowing its ranks to flourish.

“These organizations enrich themselves by peddling poison in our communities, trafficking children for sexual exploitation and inflicting horrific violence in the communities where they operate,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in remarks before meeting with top federal law enforcement officials on ways to dismantle ultraviolent transnational gangs.

WASHINGTON – Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly on Tuesday bluntly challenged members of Congress critical of the Trump administration's aggressive approach to immigration enforcement to either change the laws or “shut up.”

In a wide-ranging speech, Kelly also promised a border crackdown on marijuana, which is illegal under federal law but legal under state law in eight states and the District of Columbia.

The blunt-talking, retired Marine general defended the work of Homeland Security employees from immigration agents to airport security officers, saying they are unjustifiably maligned by critics as they enforce laws intended to keep America safe. He described Homeland Security staff as “political pawns” in his speech at George Washington University.

“They have been asked to do more with less, and less, and less,” Kelly said. “They are often ridiculed and insulted by public officials, and frequently convicted in the court of public opinion on unfounded allegations testified to by street lawyers and spokespersons.”

Kelly said the public and public officials should err on the side of assuming that the agency's employees are acting within the law. And for members of Congress who don't like the laws, Kelly said they “should have the courage and skill to change the laws. Otherwise they should shut up and support the men and women on the front lines.”

More than 21,000 immigrants in the U.S. illegally have been arrested since President Donald Trump took office in January, compared with about 16,000 people during the same time last year. About a quarter of those arrests were immigrants who had no criminal history, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

While the number of deportations has actually decreased slightly since Trump took office, the crackdown has left immigrant communities and advocates worried that just about any immigrant in the country illegally could be swept up. During the Obama administration, ICE agents were told to focus strictly on immigrants convicted of serious crimes or those who otherwise posed a threat to public safety.

Kelly said stepped-up enforcement has had a dramatic effect. He said dangerous criminals are being arrested or are hiding, fearing that ICE is looking for them.

A sharp drop in arrests at the Mexican border suggests that fewer people have been trying to cross illegally since Trump took office. In March, the U.S. Border Patrol arrested about 12,100 people, the fewest number of arrests in a month in at least 17 years.