Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly says that, despite his department’s newly issued sweeping immigration guidelines, there will be “no mass deportations” of illegal immigrants out of the U.S.
The statement came as Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met Thursday with Mexican leaders in Mexico City in what was surely an effort to shore up relations between the two countries. Trump acknowledged in a meeting with manufacturing CEOs that the visit could be a “tough trip.”
“Right now, Rex, who, as you know, he’s in Mexico. I said, ‘That’s gonna be a tough trip,’ because we have to be treated fairly by Mexico,” Trump said. He later acknowledged that Kelly was with Tillerson in Mexico, noting that Kelly has “been unbelievable at the border,” according to Politico.
The foreign visit comes just two days after Kelly’s Department of Homeland Security published new immigration guidelines instructing federal immigration authorities to be more aggressive in detaining and deporting individuals who are in the country illegally, the New York Daily News reported.
But while speaking before Mexican leaders Thursday, Kelly seemed to voice a much different position:
This is something I would really like you all to pay attention to because it is frequently misrepresented or misreported. Let me be very, very clear: There will be no — I repeat — no mass deportations. Everything we do in DHS will be done legally and according to human rights and the legal justice system of the United States.
Kelly’s statement came the same day Trump reiterated a familiar immigration message during a meeting manufacturing company CEOs:
We’re getting really bad dudes out of this country — and at a rate that nobody’s ever seen before. And they’re the bad ones. And it’s a military operation, because what has been allowed to come into our country — when you see gang violence that you’ve read about like never before and all of the things, much of that is people that are here illegally. And they’re rough and tough, but they’re not as tough like our people. So we’re getting them out.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer made the same point Wednesday while briefing reporters.
“The president has made clear, when you have 12, 14, 15 million people in the country illegally, that there has to be a system of priority, and right now, ICE’s priority is going to make sure that we focus on first and foremost on that. I think it’s one thing to say, prioritize people who pose a threat to public safety and go after this individual or that individual or whatever,” Spicer said, according to the Washington Post.