Three former Homeland Security secretaries fired off a letter Wednesday insisting Congress’s deadline for granting legal status to illegal immigrant “Dreamers” is actually this month, not the March 5 phaseout date set by President Trump.
The three — Democrats Janet Napolitano and Jeh Johnson, and Republican Michael Chertoff — said the department will need months to get a program up and running, and to provide certainty for employers who rely on the illegal immigrants.
“The realistic deadline for successfully establishing a Dreamers program in time to prevent large scale loss of work authorization and deportation protection is only weeks away, in the middle of January,” the three insisted in the letter, first reported by the New York Times.
All three secretaries have been major backers of legalization of most of the country’s illegal immigrants, so their support for such a step is not surprising.
But their evaluation of their old department as unable to move fast enough to create an amnesty program could serve as a warning to those looking for a smooth transition.
They pointed out that when President Obama created the 2012 DACA deportation amnesty for Dreamers through executive action, he allowed 90 days between the announcement and the time applications were accepted.
Ms. Napolitano oversaw the department at that time, and had to grapple with a number of uncertainties, particularly since the program was created without legal backing from Congress, leaving a number of thorny decisions to bureaucrats.
When Mr. Johnson tried to expand the DACA program in 2014 he stumbled into another mess, with officers issuing permits in defiance of a court order. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency responsible for the process, blamed automated computer systems for the error.