DHS chief: Military won't be used for deportations

DHS chief: Military won't be used for deportations
© Greg Nash

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly on Thursday pledged the military would not be used to expel undocumented immigrants from the U.S.

Speaking in Mexico City, Kelly pledged the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) sweeping new immigration enforcement rules would not result in “mass deportations.”

“Let me be very, very clear, there will be no, repeat, no mass deportations,” he said. “Everything we do in DHS will be done legally and according to human rights and the legal justice system of the United States.”

The comments came just hours after President Trump called the new deportation push a “military operation,” which threatened to heighten the concerns of immigrant-rights groups and the Mexican government. 

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"There will be no, no use of military force in immigration,” Kelly said, telling the news media only "half of you get that right.”

Kelly may have been referring to a draft proposal, which was never adopted, to enlist roughly 100,000 National Guard troops to apprehend undocumented immigrants in nearly a dozen states.

The guidance, which was made official Tuesday, vastly increases the number of immigrants considered priorities for deportation. 

It also directs immigration enforcement agencies to hire thousands of new agents to apprehend people living in the country illegally, with local police and sheriffs’ offices enlisted in the effort. 

National Guard troops have been used in the past to staff observation posts, watch surveillance footage and build fencing. But they have not been used to arrest immigrants targeted for deportation.

Trump however, sowed confusion over the military’s role with his remarks earlier Thursday at the White House. 

“We’re getting really bad dudes out of this country,” he said at a meeting with manufacturing CEOs. “And at a rate nobody has ever seen before. And they’re the bad ones. And it’s a military operation.”

Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Thursday met with top Mexican officials in order to smooth over tensions that were exacerbated by the new immigration policies.