State’s social services department won’t share immigration info with feds

 

DOVER — One of the main themes of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign was to enforce federal laws against illegal immigration.

With President Trump now in his third month in office, many illegal immigrants in Delaware are fearful, according to state officials.

Although Delaware generally does not cooperate with federal law enforcement regarding immigration, some immigrants have stopped taking government services from the state because of fears they will be identified and deported.

Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Kara Odom Walker recently sent an email to department employees stating the agency will “respect” immigrants’ privacy.

“Our program offices, our service centers and our clinics will not share information about anyone’s immigration status, benefits they receive, their address or other contact information, except in rare circumstances in which we have received a court order,” she wrote.

“In some cases we will check the information clients give us to make sure their household is eligible for our benefit programs.

“This review could include various state and federal agencies to see if the information the clients gave us is correct. We do not check the status of non-lawful aliens because they are not eligible for the benefit programs that require proof of citizenship.”

According to the email, some immigrants in the state illegally have tried to cancel benefits or appointments out of concern they will be turned over to federal authorities.

DHSS spokeswoman Jill Fredel said the policy does not stem from Gov. John Carney, who was inaugurated in January, but is a continuation of practices done under Gov. Jack Markell. Both are Democrats.

While immigrants themselves are ineligible for some services, such as Medicaid, their children may be able to receive them. Individuals born in the United States are considered citizens, regardless of their parents’ status.

DHSS is urging residents to continue seeking care, especially if they have a serious disease, such as tuberculosis, that could create a public health issue.

Delaware State Police has not been contacted by federal law enforcement and does not have a 287(g) agreement with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The agreement authorizes local law enforcement to work with ICE to enforce immigration laws.

But, while some Americans have protested President Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration, others are applauding.

Sen. Dave Lawson, R-Marydel, is among those who believes government shouldn’t provide services to immigrants in the country illegally.

“The taxpayers can’t bear the burden any longer,” he said.

Asked what he thought about Delaware’s top officials refusing to cooperate with federal immigration services, Sen. Lawson said Delaware was becoming a “sanctuary state.”

A 2015 bill that would have prohibited law enforcement from arresting anyone solely for being in the state illegally sparked some controversy and did not pass.

The main sponsor of the bill later said Delaware police already followed the procedures in the measure.

However, the Democratic-controlled General Assembly did approve legislation in 2015 creating driving privilege cards for immigrants living in the state illegally.

Gov. John Carney issued a statement about the state’s reaction to federal immigration policy.

“Delaware will remain a safe, welcoming community for everyone to educate their children, have access to good-paying jobs and pursue the American Dream. President Trump’s actions on immigration have understandably caused anxiety and fear,” he said.

“I will continue to meet with members of our immigrant communities, listen to their concerns and do everything I can to ensure that Delaware is a welcoming place. We are a country founded on immigration, and we ought to remain true to our values of diversity and inclusion.”

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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