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McAuliffe: Trump Administration Deportations Prioritize Criminals

Virginia Democrat details conversations with Homeland Security secretary

McAuliffe, center, is the chairman of the National Governors Association. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
McAuliffe, center, is the chairman of the National Governors Association. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said Monday that the Trump administration has assured him that the targets of deportation efforts are people who have been involved in what he described as a “criminal enterprise.”

McAuliffe, a Democrat, is the chairman of the National Governors Association, which was finishing up meetings in Washington after a weekend gathering. The governors were at the White House for meetings with President Donald Trump after also visiting the executive mansion for a dinner with the president Sunday night.

McAuliffe said he took advantage of Sunday evening’s gathering to express concern about deportation policies. The White House is expected to roll out a revised executive order to address legal concerns with initial guidance.

“I did mention to the president last night that there has been a chilling effect, that people are scared in this country today,” McAuliffe said at a news conference, noting the large number of immigrants who reside and operate small businesses in Northern Virginia.

McAuliffe said he spent almost a full hour Sunday in a private meeting with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.

“I said, ‘Can I leave this meeting general — secretary — and say that there will be no deportations of any individuals in the United States of America unless they have been involved in a criminal enterprise?’ He said yes,” McAuliffe said. “Can I walk out and tell the press that we will not have any random stops by ICE agents? He said, ‘Yes, you can go say that.’”

If this is the policy of the current administration, it does not deviate much from the previous one, which prioritized deporting undocumented immigrants who had committed crimes.

McAuliffe also said he received further assurances that the deferred action program benefiting undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children, which was implemented by President Barack Obama, would remain in effect, as the White House has previously indicated.

“I reiterated that conversation to President Trump last night at dinner, and I told the president people are confused about this policy and they are frightened about this policy and you need to clarify it, so that people are not scared in this country,” McAuliffe said. “I think many of the 11 million individuals in this country today, there is a sincere fear that they may be deported. I’ve been told that is not the case.”

“If anyone who is watching this here has instances where that is not being followed, I would like to know, and I have no hesitation picking up the phone and calling the president, the vice president or secretary Kelly,” McAuliffe said.