A former acting secretary of homeland security has admitted intentionally omitting critical information from a memo she wrote ending the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program because she did not agree with President Donald Trump’s approach and was miffed her opinion wasn’t listened to.
Elaine Duke, who served the president as his acting homeland security chief for about four months, made her claim in an interview with The New York Times published Friday. Duke had more than 20 years with the federal government when she was appointed, according to PBS.
The fit of pique Duke described that took place in 2017 had far-reaching repercussions. In the June 18 Supreme Court ruling that blocked — at least temporarily — Trump’s effort to end DACA, the majority of justices said that no policy rationale was given for ending the program, which was created by former President Barack Obama.
Duke, whose interview with The Times was filled with criticisms of Trump, ironically noted one of them in an interview revealing how she sabotaged his action to end DACA
“President Trump believes that he can’t trust,” Duke said. “That has affected his ability to get counsel from diverse groups of people.”
Elaine Duke is the latest former top White House security official to denounce Trump’s handling of the job. https://t.co/VMvAAAqrZV
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) July 13, 2020
As Duke recalled the scene, she was summoned to an August 2017 meeting with then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, adviser Stephen Miller and other White House officials in what she expected was a discussion session about DACA.
She described the meeting to the Times as “an ambush” than that “the room was stacked.”
In fact, she said, the decision that DACA was illegal had been made, which she disliked. As the Times phrased it, “She did not disagree, but she chafed at being cut out of the real decision-making.”
“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.”
As The Times described it :
“Ms. Duke’s most lasting legacy is likely to be the memo she signed — under pressure — to end that program. 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.
“Ms. Duke said she did not include policy reasons in the memo because she did not agree with the ideas being pushed by Mr. Miller and Mr. Sessions: that DACA amounted to an undeserved amnesty and that it would encourage new waves of illegal immigration.”
According to The Times, Duke agreed that DACA “isn’t a legal program,” but she said she “hopes that Congress can find a 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.”
In an article published Nov. 12 of last year, when the DACA arguments were going before the Supreme Court, The Times was more explicit:
“Ms. Duke’s bare-bones memo ending the program did not make the case that President Barack Obama had gotten the policy wrong — that DACA recipients were not deserving of protection or that allowing them to stay in the country would create problems that the government wanted to avoid. Instead, Ms. Duke, a career civil servant who volunteered with an immigrant aid group in her free time, relied solely on an assertion by Mr. Sessions that it was unlawful.”
That was not enough to win the Supreme Court over.
Having soured on the president, Duke told the Times she hopes that Congress “would eventually find a way to allow the undocumented immigrants covered by the program to live and work permanently in the United States.”
Duke’s comments produced a buzz on Twitter.
#ElaineDuke acting Homeland Security Secretary July-Dec 2017
Told The New York Times
“She had deliberately sabotaged DACA paperwork”
Career Politicians Hurt USA ??needs Term Limits pic.twitter.com/1vWspJwnHt
— Que (@que_peace) July 13, 2020
— Teacher for Trump (@MAGAeducator) July 13, 2020
In response to The Times article, White House spokesman Judd 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.”
Duke told The Times that she disliked Trump’s approach after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico.
“The president’s initial ideas were more of as a businessman, you know,” she said. “Can we outsource the electricity? Can we can we sell the island? You know, or divest of that asset?”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.