Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers have become the target of severe criticism from Democrats during the Trump administration for their enforcement of immigration laws, but former White House chief of staff John Kelly said critics of ICE can "go to hell," the Washington Examiner reported.
Kelly made the comments to the Examiner's Larry O'Connor for the "Examining Politics" podcast. O'Connor asked him about Democrats who want to abolish ICE. Kelly was secretary of the Department of Homeland Security in 2017.
"They can go to hell. These are good people," Kelly replied. "The members of Congress who say those kinds of things, first of all, they don't believe it, but they can go to hell because those people are doing within the law and within humanity exactly what they are supposed to be doing, and they focus on illegal aliens that are criminals."
Kelly also said that President Donald Trump is not anti-immigration, he's just anti-illegal immigration.
"The sanctuary cities, it's just astounding, but it's political, it has nothing to do with reality," Kelly said. "You know, 'Trump's a bad guy, everything he does is a bad guy. He's anti-immigration.' He's not. Illegal aliens are a different story entirely, and as I used to say to the Congress all the time, 'If you don't like what we're doing, or ICE is doing, or what DHS is doing, then change the law. But don't rant and rave to me about how these are bad people. These are good people.'"
Kelly resigned his post as chief of staff in January 2019, a move he has since said he regrets because he feels his presence in the White House could've kept the president from impeachment.
"I said, whatever you do — and we were still in the process of trying to find someone to take my place — I said whatever you do, don't hire a 'yes man,' someone who won't tell you the truth — don't do that,'" Kelly said. "Because if you do, I believe you will be impeached."
President Trump and White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham disagreed with that analysis.
"I worked with John Kelly, and he was totally unequipped to handle the genius of our great president," Grisham said.