Sunday, November 17, 2019

Oversight panel to subpoena ICE and USCIS directors over deportation deferrals

The chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee announced yesterday he will issue subpoenas next week for official accounts of a Trump administration policy to end deportation deferrals for humanitarian reasons.

In a memo to members of the committee, Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said he will issue subpoenas to USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli and ICE Acting Director Matthew Albence, in the wake of a September hearing where lower-ranking agency officials stonewalled Democratic members. “Throughout the Committee’s investigation, the Administration has refused to produce requested documents, and agency officials have refused to answer questions regarding why the Administration sought to deport these children, who was responsible for this decision, and how requests for deferred action will be handled going forward,” Cummings wrote.

At issue is a policy change announced on Aug. 7, where USCIS said it would stop considering deferrals for most immigrants with special circumstances. USCIS had previously issued deportation deferrals for compelling humanitarian needs, including cases of foreign nationals with life-threatening conditions who seek medical care in the United States.

“Deferred action allows individuals with compelling humanitarian need—including children with life-threatening conditions such as cancer, muscular dystrophy, and cystic fibrosis—to remain in the country,” wrote Cummings. “Deferrals do not provide a pathway to citizenship, but they provide successful applicants a reprieve from immigration actions in two-year increments” he added.

On Sept. 2, USCIS reopened deferral cases for people who had applied before Aug. 7. Still, Oversight scheduled a hearing with USCIS and ICE officials on Sept. 11 to determine what had prompted the policy change.

The night before the hearing, the Department of Homeland Security announced its officials would not be able to answer most questions, as a private party had sued the responsible agencies over the policy change. Democrats were livid after an exchange at the hearing between Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and USCIS Field Operations Directorate Associate Director Daniel Renaud.

THE HILL