WASHINGTON (Reuters) – White House officials tried to pressure Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke into expelling tens of thousands of Honduran immigrants, the Washington Post reported on Thursday, saying also that Duke said she planned to resign.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert both called Duke about her decision to extend residency permits to the immigrants, the newspaper reported, citing current and former administration officials.
The calls came on Monday just as she was about to announce the Temporary Protected Status for the Hondurans, they said. She refused to reverse the decision on the immigrants.
Homeland Security had a Monday deadline to announce plans for 57,000 Hondurans and 2,500 Nicaraguans who were granted TPS after Hurricane Mitch hit Central America in 1998.
Duke ended the protected status for the Nicaraguans on Monday but said DHS needed more time to decide on the Hondurans. She extended their status to July 5, 2018.
The officials said Duke was irritated by what she saw as politically driven interference by White House officials, including her old boss Kelly, who had been Homeland Security secretary.
Duke informed Kelly she would resign, the officials said on condition of anonymity.
DHS spokesman Tyler Q. Houlton said in an email that Duke “is committed to continuing her work at DHS” and had made her decision based on current immigration law.
“As with many issues, there were a variety of views inside the administration on TPS,” Houlton said. “It is perfectly normal for members of the White House team to weigh in on major decisions.”
The White House did not respond to requests for comment on reports on the internal debate in the Post and the Wall Street Journal.
The Trump administration has targeted the program, which critics say allows participants to repeatedly extend their stays in six-to-18-month increments in case of a natural disaster, civil strife or other emergencies in their homelands.
Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn