WASHINGTON -- Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.), one of Congress' most senior Hispanic voices, urged president-elect Donald Trump to revisit his promises on immigration Thursday, stepping into a debate Thursday that has consumed much of his career, and fueled much of Trump's appeal.
"I am deeply troubled by the fear and panic I hear from our immigrant community," Menendez said in his first Senate speech since Trump won the presidency. "Their panic is justified and palpable because of the inflammatory remarks made by the president-elect on the campaign trail about immigrants. His campaign promises made it seem as if no immigrant was safe from deportation, even otherwise law-abiding decent people."
Menendez, the son of Cuban immigrants and a member of Congress for more than 20 years, focused mostly on so-called "dreamers" -- people brought to the United States illegally as children, who grew up in the country and who are now largely shielded from deportation under a directive from President Obama. More than 700,000 such people have been protected under the Deferred Action for Children Arrivals program, or DACA, but Democrats and some Republicans worry that those who turned over personal information to apply to the program could now find that data used against them, leading to deportations.
"The DACA program has the potential of becoming a registry of millions of undocumented immigrants who are now exposed for seeking a better life for themselves and their kids," Menendez said. "These young immigrants and their families are at risk of losing it all. The human cost is too high to pay."
But he also urged sympathy toward other immigrants, saying they, too, contribute to their communities.
Some Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), have urged sympathy for people who have come forward under Obama's program, but others want to hold Trump to his hard-line campaign talk on immigration.