White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has defended his claim that illegal immigrants “don’t have skills” and cannot “integrate well” into American society.
According to The Hill, the comment was made during an interview on Thursday with NPR’s “Morning Edition,” where Kelly was asked about the “zero-tolerance” policy instituted by the Department of Justice.
“The vast majority of the people that move illegally into (the) United States are not bad people. They’re not criminals. They’re not MS-13,” Kelly said.
“But they’re also not people that would easily assimilate into the United States, into our modern society,” he added. “They’re overwhelmingly rural people.”
The chief of staff went on to claim that, in the countries where those immigrants are from, “fourth-, fifth-, sixth-grade educations are kind of the norm.”
Though Kelly admitted to sympathizing with those that cross onto American soil illegally, he suggested that no sympathy is above the law.
“They don’t speak English; obviously that’s a big thing. … They don’t integrate well; they don’t have skills,” Kelly said. “They’re not bad people.”
“They’re coming here for a reason. And I sympathize with the reason. But the laws are the laws,” he added, touting the newly implemented zero-tolerance policy.
According to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the DOJ’s zero-tolerance stance comes amid an increase in illegal border crossings.
The law aims to crack down on illegal border crossing but has stirred controversy by how it is being carried out, with many decrying its ability to rip parents away from their children if they are caught crossing the border.
“If you smuggle illegal aliens across our border, then we will prosecute you,” Sessions said Monday. “If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you. And that child may be separated from you as required by law.”
Kelly has suggested he hopes the policy won’t be needed in the long run and has gone so far as to suggest granting citizenship to more than 425,000 immigrants who have been living on American soil for decades under temporary protected status.
“I think we should fold all of the TPS people that have been here for a considerable period of time,” Kelly said. “And find a way for them to be on a path to citizenship.”
However, the former secretary of the Department of Homeland Security did show his support when it came down to the DHS ending TPS for Haiti, El Salvador, Nepal, Nicaragua, Sudan and Honduras.
The decision to end protected status came at the hands of Kirstjen Nielsen and was done in a way that forced lawmakers’ hands into action, Kelly suggested.
“By doing what she’s done, Secretary Nielsen once again is forcing the United States Congress to do something,” Kelly said. He added that he has been asked a number of times what his philosophies on certain policies are and that he has always answered that his personal beliefs do not matter — only the laws do.
“I just said, ‘Look, you make the laws. I execute the laws.’ I can’t pick and choose what laws to enforce,” Kelly said. “I should be thrown out of the job if I do that.”
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