Donald Trump’s former Homeland Security chief has revealed that she deliberately undermined the president’s attempt to end protection for ‘Dreamers’ because it ran contrary to her own beliefs.
Elaine Duke, a lifelong Republican, served as the acting secretary from July 31, 2017 until December 6 of the same year.
Her short tenure coincided with the president’s push to end protection from deportation for 700,000 young people known as ‘Dreamers’, who were brought to the United States as children.
Barack Obama had enacted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which shielded them from deportation as long as they did not break any laws.
Elaine Duke, outside the White House in Sept 2017, spoke on Saturday to the New York Times
Duke’s actions in deliberately weakening the policy led the Supreme Court to rule last month that Trump’s actions on DACA were unconstitutional.
Duke, 62, told The New York Times in an interview published on Saturday about her reason for sabotaging the plan.
She explained that, in August 2017, she had been led into what she believed was a meeting to discuss DACA.
Instead, she said, it was ‘an ambush’, with the then-attorney general, Jeff Sessions, waiting for her besides Stephen Miller, Trump’s hardline immigration specialist.
They demanded she sign a memo rescinding DACA.
She agreed, reluctantly – but in doing so watered it down to make it legally difficult to justify.
‘What was missing for me is really that process of discussing it,’ she said.
‘It is a grave decision not only from a legal standpoint but from the effect it will have on not just 700,000 people but 700,000 people plus their families.’
Jeff Sessions, former attorney general, and speechwriter Stephen Miller ‘ambushed’ Duke
Duke and Trump in August 2017 during her four months as acting head of Homeland Security
The bare-bones memo did not include policy reasons for rescinding DACA.
Instead, it simply said that Sessions had deemed it unlawful.
She told the paper that she did not agree with the ideas being pushed by Miller and Sessions that DACA amounted to an undeserved amnesty and that it would encourage new waves of illegal immigration.
She said she still agreed that DACA ‘isn’t a legal program,’ but hoped that Republicans and Democrats in Congress would eventually find a way to allow the undocumented immigrants covered by the program to live and work permanently in the United States.
Her decision not to cite any specific policy reasons was at the heart of the Supreme Court’s ruling, which said the Trump administration had failed to substantively consider the implications of terminating the program’s protections and benefits.
Duke, a 30-year veteran civil servant who volunteered with an immigrant aid group in her free time, knew full well what she was doing.
The DACA ruling by Trump, announced in September 2017, affected 700,000 people
The DACA issue sparked fierce debate, with many Republicans uneasy about Trump’s policy
She said she supported the president’s efforts to tighten immigration security. But the president’s ‘America First’ philosophy has veered toward ‘America Only,’ she told the paper.
White House officials have long expressed displeasure with Duke’s short tenure as the chief of homeland security, describing her as unwilling to be a team player and resistant to the president’s agenda, the paper reported.
Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, was asked about Duke’s actions and said that Trump was doing what he was elected to do.
Deere said Trump ‘has kept his promise to the American people to reduce illegal immigration, secure the border, lower the crime rate and maintain law and order.’
‘He has never wavered in his highest obligation to the American people: their safety and security,’ Deere added.