Travel ban should have been de­layed: DHS chief

Cape Breton Post - - WORLD -

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s im­mi­gra­tion and travel ban made “an aw­ful lot of sense” but prob­a­bly should have been de­layed at least long enough to brief Congress about it, Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary John Kelly told law­mak­ers Tues­day.

Kelly’s com­ment to the House Home­land Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee was the most di­rect ac­knowl­edg­ment by a high-level ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial that the roll­out of Trump’s ex­ec­u­tive or­der had been mis­han­dled.

“In ret­ro­spect, I should have — this is all on me, by the way — I should have de­layed it just a bit so that I could talk to mem­bers of Congress, par­tic­u­larly to the lead­er­ship of com­mit­tees like this, to pre­pare them for what was com­ing,” Kelly said in his first public meet­ing with law­mak­ers since be­ing con­firmed by the Se­nate last month.

Trump’s ex­ec­u­tive or­der tem­po­rar­ily stopped cit­i­zens of seven Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity na­tions from en­ter­ing the U.S. and also tem­po­rar­ily barred the ad­mis­sion of refugees. A court has blocked the or­der, but the ad­min­is­tra­tion is ap­peal­ing.

Kelly de­fended the or­der, say­ing it will enhance public safety “for all our cit­i­zens,” but said in hind­sight he would have de­layed its launch by “a day or two.”

Kelly was put on the de­fen­sive by Demo­cratic law­mak­ers who have ar­gued that the travel ban is in­hu­mane, coun­ter­pro­duc­tive and essen­tially a Mus­lim ban — an al­le­ga­tion Kelly re­peat­edly de­nied. Kelly re­ferred to the or­der as a “pause” that would give the U.S. gov­ern­ment time to fully eval­u­ate how would-be vis­i­tors and refugees are be­ing vet­ted be­fore they are al­lowed into the coun­try.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, in­clud­ing Justice De­part­ment lawyers de­fend­ing the or­der in a fed­eral ap­peals court, has said the travel ban was nec­es­sary to keep would-be ter­ror­ists out of the coun­try. Trump has re­peat­edly tweeted that a court or­der tem­po­rar­ily block­ing the ban is lead­ing to “peo­ple pour­ing in.” In a tweet this week, Trump said “many very bad and dan­ger­ous peo­ple may be pour­ing into our coun­try.”

Pressed by Rep. Bennie Thomp­son, the com­mit­tee’s rank­ing Demo­crat, to ad­dress the pres­i­dent’s claim, Kelly said only that the gov­ern­ment won’t know for sure if some­one with bad in­ten­tions en­tered the U.S. “un­til the boom.”

“We won’t know un­til then,” Kelly said, re­fer­ring to a pos­si­ble at­tack.

Kelly also ad­dressed ques­tions about the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s plans for a wall along the bor­der with Mex­ico and his ef­forts to bol­ster the ranks of the Bor­der Pa­trol and Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms Enforcement, the DHS agency re­spon­si­ble for find­ing and ar­rest­ing im­mi­grants liv­ing in the county il­le­gally.

On Trump’s wall, Kelly said he is re­ly­ing on rec­om­men­da­tions from bor­der agents along the south­ern bor­der. He said he asked agents in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley about the is­sue in a visit last week.

“Part of the rea­son I went down there, first and fore­most, was to ask the peo­ple that know more about this than any­one else on the planet,” Kelly said. “There are walls there, parts of walls in strate­gic places in McAllen on the bor­der. But do we need more wall? And they said, well, you know, sec­re­tary, we need ... to ex­tend some walls; we need to fill in some places with phys­i­cal bar­ri­ers.”

AP PHOTO

Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary John Kelly pauses while tes­ti­fy­ing on Capi­tol Hill in Wash­ing­ton, Tues­day be­fore the House Home­land Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee.

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