Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Friday that the next administration could reverse his promises and use the information illegal immigrants have voluntarily turned over to the department as part of a 2012 amnesty to now target them for deportation.
Mr. Johnson, in an interview with Univision, said he hoped the Trump administration wouldn’t take that stance, but the secretary said there are no legal blocks to doing so.
“By its nature, executive action is not legal action, and it can be changed by the next administration,” Mr. Johnson said in the interview, airing Sunday on “Al Punto with Jorge Ramos.”
The 2012 tentative amnesty, known officially as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, has protected more than 750,000 illegal immigrants from deportation.
But Mr. Trump has called the creation of the program, which Mr. Obama did on his own, without Congress, an illegal act. Mr. Trump has also promised to step up deportations, though he’s sent mixed signals about how far he’ll go in pushing agents to search for illegal immigrants.
Immigrant-rights advocates say the information migrants turned over as part of DACA includes their addresses, which could provide a roadmap for deportation should a Trump administration decide to pursue them.
When Mr. Obama ordered the creation of DACA, those who applied were promised the information they provided wouldn’t be shared with deportation agents, except in extreme circumstances.
Mr. Ramos, the Univision anchor, pressed Mr. Johnson for assurances that they could prevent a Trump administration from reneging on those promises.
“This matter may be litigated in the courts at some point and we’ll see,” Mr. Johnson said. “But my view, my official and personal view is that when the government makes a promise, the government ought to keep its word.”
In the interview Mr. Johnson also praised Mr. Trump’s pick to succeed him as secretary, saying retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly is to be trusted.
“I believe John Kelly to be a man of character and integrity. I think he’ll be received well by our immigration workforce, and I’m sure he will carefully consider these issues. He is not at all cavalier, and I think he cares about people,” Mr. Johnson said.