By Kevin Robillard
Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly called on Congress to fix the nation’s immigration laws, arguing his department shouldn’t have as much discretion as it does on deportations.
“I would argue, Chuck, that we have to straighten this out,” Kelly told host Chuck Todd of NBC on Sunday’s “Meet the Press.” “And I place that squarely on the United States Congress. It’s a hugely complex series of laws, and I engage the Hill quite a bit and get an earful about what I should do and what I shouldn’t do. But it all comes down to the law, doesn’t it?
“And we are a nation of laws, and I would hope that the Congress fixes a lot of these problems.”
Kelly argued that the 10,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and the 5,000 new border patrol agents his department plans on hiring do not amount to the “deportation force” President Donald Trump promised to develop during the campaign.
“A law enforcement force,” he responded. “Men and women who will do their jobs in the future as they’ve done them in the past. And that is execute and uphold the nation’s laws. There are a huge number, as you know, of illegal aliens or undocumented individuals that have to be dealt with in one way or another.”
He also suggested that neither he nor ICE could be blamed for an uptick in deportations during the Trump administration. He did, however, acknowledge that some undocumented immigrants who wouldn’t have been deported under the Obama administration will be now, saying the “the spectrum of criminality [where] we operate has changed.”
“You have to remember that there’s a system, a legal justice system in place,” Kelly said. “And the law deports people. Secretary Kelly doesn’t. ICE doesn’t. It’s the United States criminal justice system or justice system that deports people.”