Senators Confront DHS Secretary About Trump’s ‘Racially Motivated’ Immigration Policy

By Alfonso Serrano Jan 17, 2018

During remarks at a Senate Committee on the Judiciary oversight hearing yesterday (January 16), Senator Dianne Feinstein questioned whether the Trump administration’s immigration policy is “racially motivated.”

Feinstein (D-Calif.) asked Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to explain the administration’s cancellation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a form of humanitarian relief, for some 250,000 immigrants, including those from Haiti and El Salvador. Last week, it was revealed that President Donald Trump made comments in which he used the word “shithole” with regards to immigrants from Africa, El Salvador and Haiti.

Said Feinstein, according to The Hill:

In light of the reports about the president’s recent comments, I hope you’re ready to specifically address one issue in particular, and that’s the termination of Temporary Protected Status, TPS, for Haitians. In light of the president’s comments, I’m forced to question whether the decision to terminate protected status for Haitian nationals was in fact racially motivated. I hope not.

In November, DHS announced that it had terminated protected status for nearly 60,000 Haitians living in the United States since a 2010 earthquake devastated their country. These immigrants, who have an estimated 27,000 U.S.-born children, have until July 2019 to leave the country or find another form of legal status. 

This month, DHS announced that almost 200,000 Salvadorans, based in the U.S. since twin earthquakes ravaged the tiny Central American nation, faced the same fate. They have 18 months to leave the country or face deportation. An estimated 57,000 Hondurans who came to the states after Hurricane Mitch devastated their country in 1998 are expected to meet a similar fate this summer.

The termination of protected status represents a sharp break from previous administrations, which extended the TPS designation every 18 months.

Nielson defended TPS termination for Salvadorans in her response to Feinstein, per The Hill:

The law does not allow me to look at the country conditions writ large. It requires me to look very specifically as to whether the country conditions from the original designation continue to exist. In this case, the 2001 [earthquake] in El Salvador, we didn’t dispute the country conditions are difficult, but the law requires me, if I cannot say the conditions emanating … still exist, regardless of other systemic conditions, I must terminate TPS.

During the same committee hearing yesterday, Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said Nielsen was “complicit” in Trump’s racism after her avowal that she didn’t remember the president making bigoted comments about Africans and Haitians in a White House meeting last week, The Huffington Post reported.

“Your silence and amnesia is complicity,” Booker told Nielsen. Watch the exchange below, and watch the full hearing here.