U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson met with groups on opposite ends of the immigration debate on Wednesday.
Johnson, who is in the midst of considering changes to the way the deportations are carried out, met with undocumented immigrants who want the Department of Homeland Security to waive deportations for people who do not have criminal records. And he also met, separately, with some of the nation’s leading groups that advocate for stricter immigration enforcement.
United We Dream, which describes itself as the largest immigrant youth organization in the country, said in a statement that the meeting with Johnson had been “productive.”
The group said it had told the DHS head that the administration’s record rate of deportations – 2 million since President Obama took office – has had a devastating impact on families, separating spouses, parents from children and destabilizing immigrant communities.
They want the administration to extend to more undocumented immigrants an initiative from 2012 that suspended deportation for immigrant youth.
“While Sec. Johnson did not provide details about the timing or content of his current policy review, the stories we shared make it clear why we need significant relief and reform now,” said Lorella Praeli, the director of policy and advocacy at United We Dream. “Our community cannot wait.”
United We Dream also suggested creating a humanitarian relief program for deported immigrants who have U.S. resident or citizen families. They also are pushing for less detention.
“We look forward to continuing the dialogue with Sec. Johnson and asked to meet with him again,” she said, “to ensure that the real people affected by the Obama Administration’s immigration enforcement remain front and center in his mind and heart.”
On the same day, Johnson met with heads of Numbers USA, the Center for Immigration Studies, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, Progressives for Immigration Reform and the Eagle Forum – all groups that want tougher enforcement.
Several people who attended the meeting told Politico that they expressed concern about state and local governments that have said they were defying orders by federal officials to detain people whom local authorities arrest so that immigration agents can take over and begin deportation proceedings.
“Our point was … you need to exercise a little leadership in coming out against these publicly, condemning them,” said Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, according to Politico.
The proponents of tough immigration enforcement also urged Johnson to make random deportations a part of the agency’s practice.
They argued, according to Politico that enforcement practices by other agencies use randomness – such as the Internal Revenue Service does with random audits, and local police use of speed traps.
“We pushed very hard that there has to be a percentage of the resources [that] have to be for random deportations,” said Roy Beck, the executive director of Numbers USA.